Portman Op-Ed: One Step Closer to Restoring Pension Benefits for Delphi Retirees

By U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, President Trump announced that he is taking executive action to help resolve a long-standing injustice that has affected the retirement plans of former employees of Delphi.

In the summer of 2009, as the federal government took GM into bankruptcy, the Obama Administration terminated the pensions of thousands of Delphi salaried retirees. These 20,000 retirees, ranging from shop-floor supervisors and salespeople to engineers and office managers, often spent decades working at Delphi and its predecessors.

They earned their pensions the American way, through hard work and dedication. But instead of honoring the promises that had been made to these loyal middle class workers after years of service, the Obama Administration terminated their pensions, leaving them struggling to make ends meet in their retirements.

I’ve worked to help the Delphi employees for nearly a decade. The Obama Administration’s decision slashed the retirement income of about 5,000 Delphi salaried retiree families throughout Ohio, from the Mahoning Valley to Dayton, which came on top of the total loss of all promised health care benefits and life insurance.

What’s worse, at the very same time these salaried Delphi employees had their pensions chopped, some of their hourly colleagues had their pensions “topped up” by GM to the full amount owed them by Delphi. Recall, this was at a time when the federal government controlled GM and the Obama Administration was making these decisions. Basic notions of fairness dictate that these workers deserve to have their pensions restored.

I have been able to help these same workers with their health care coverage by passing bipartisan legislation to extend the Health Coverage Tax Credit. This tax credit serves as an important bridge for older Americans who lost their pensions until they become eligible for Medicare benefits, covering 72.5 percent of their premiums.

Despite the division in Washington, we successfully reauthorized the tax credit in 2011 and 2015, and earlier this year, we introduced a new, five-year reauthorization bill to ensure this important credit stays in place so these hard-working Ohioans don’t face unnecessary barriers to health coverage. Each time, I have been proud to work side-by-side with Delphi workers to advocate for this important tax credit, and it has been extended in no small part due to their dogged determination.

However, simply extending the Health Coverage Tax Credit alone would never make these retirees fully whole, and it cannot undo the damage done by the previous Administration’s policies that picked winners and losers in the auto industry without regard to the consequences. These workers at Delphi were left behind. I am glad the President recognized the need to do something to try to help these workers.

President Trump’s memorandum directs the secretaries of Labor, Commerce, and the Treasury to review whether the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation can reinstate the Delphi salaried retirees’ full pensions and requires them to provide more transparency on the status of their pensions to the retirees. While this action will not close the book on the Delphi situation, it puts these workers one step closer on the path towards a fair resolution that sees their pension benefits fully restored.

When hard-working Americans give years of their life to a company, they deserve not to be the victims of political decision-making in Washington, where winners and losers are chosen without regard to who gets hurt.

I thank the Trump Administration for recognizing the damage that was done to these retirees’ futures and taking action to help remedy it. I’ll continue to do the same in Congress, fighting for all the workers at Delphi who were denied the retirement benefits they earned through their years of hard work.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.