U.S. House Votes to Restore Delphi Salaried Pensions

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 254-175 to pass legislation that would restore the pensions of 20,000 salaried retirees of Delphi Corp., of which more than 5,000 live in Ohio.

It’s the brightest sign yet for those workers whose pensions were assumed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. in 2009 when General Motors was steered through bankruptcy by the Obama Administration.

The measure now moves to the U.S. Senate, which may take up the bill as early as today.

Under the PBGC, Delphi retirees saw their pensions slashed, in some cases as much as 70%. General Motors nevertheless agreed to cover the pensions of hourly workers.

Under the Susan Muffley Act, the U.S. Treasury Department would retroactively make up the difference between what the PBGC covered and what was owed to salaried pensioners.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, D-13, presided over the bill’s vote, which he co-sponsored with U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee, D-5, of Michigan, and Mike Turner, R-10, of Ohio.

Kildee said that of the 37 co-sponsors, 17 are Republicans, emphasizing the bill’s bipartisan nature.

“It’s about people,” Ryan said on the House floor Monday afternoon before the vote. “It’s about American citizens who did everything right.”

Ryan gave credit to those Delphi retirees who never gave up. “I cannot begin to tell you what an example that the Delphi salaried retirees have set,” he said. “It is the absolute gold standard for activism and lobbying their government.”

“I have worked hard for over thirteen years and three presidential administrations to restore the pensions of the Delphi retirees and now this bipartisan legislation will provide them with the retirement benefits that they have always deserved,” Ryan said. “I hope my colleagues in the Senate can get this bill to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, led opposition to the bill, noting that Delphi had failed to make payments into its pension plan for four years, leaving it underfunded. She said it was unfair to have taxpayers foot the bill for pensions that were not funded by the company to begin with.

Foxx, a ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the pensions would cost taxpayers “$1.3 billion in all to bail out Delphi’s underfunded, privately run pension plan. Americans across the country do not want to fork over their hard-earned dollars to fund a costly project that was cooked up in Congress, especially when many have their own retirement accounts to consider. Taxpayers will be forced to cover the cost of this cash giveaway. This sets a terrible precedent.”

Ohio Democrat U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said during a conference call Wednesday that he hopes to introduce the bill in the senate as early as today or next week.

A best-case scenario is the bill would be introduced without objections, Brown said, where the legislation would move quickly.

“If nobody objects on either side when I go to the floor, it automatically passes in the version the House passed,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, is a co-sponsor of the bill in the senate, and Brown noted that Portman is trying to curry support from his GOP colleagues.

“We are working with them and relying on him to help us on his side of the aisle,” Brown said.

In the case of an objection, Brown said that he would work on the bill’s language and then the legislation would move to a floor vote. That is likely to take longer, he said.

Brown acknowledged there are those in the senate who are philosophically against the idea of government intervening in employee pension plans. However, he noted that the federal government has stepped in to rescue banks and automobile companies in the past, but workers and employees have often been left behind.

“I look at what’s happened over the last 15 years,” Brown said. “Government didn’t mind steeping up on auto bailouts, the banks, the companies themselves — but not the workers. To me, this is just fair play.”

Brown is confident the time is right for this legislation, noting that president Biden supports the bill whereas previous administrations were not interested in pursuing it.

“Tim [Ryan] and I went to Biden early on,” Brown said. “I think Biden is the most pro-worker president in my lifetime, so we knew we had a friend there. I don’t think we ever convinced Obama or Trump that it was a good idea.”

Bruce Gump, a retiree of the Packard Electric division of Delphi – once a GM subsidiary — saw his pension dramatically reduced as a result of the GM bankruptcy. He and others have spent the last 13 years vocally lobbying and agitating for restitution.

“There were choices made that left the salaried group out,” Gump said on the conference call. While GM assumed the pensions for those hourly Delphi workers during the 2009 bankruptcy, the salaried employees were shut out.

“We thought that was wrong,” Gump said. “A lot of horrible things have happened as a result of the decisions made at the time, and we’re pleased that this has finally got to the point where it has great support.”

The legislation has the support from the president, the AFL-CIO, and has received endorsements from organizations such as AARP, he added. “There are lots of folks who knew from the beginning that this was wrong.”

Gump said he and other pensioners immediately began working with Brown, Ryan and Turner, who represents the Dayton area.

“It’s been 13 long years,” Gump said. “Gotten to the point where there’s a real fix for it. We’re looking forward to get this done.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.