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Labor leader: Union workers buying new cars, 'remodeling their homes' after Biden pension bailout

The $86 billion bailout for failing union-managed, multiemployer pensions was part of Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

Updated: April 16, 2021 - 8:07am

A labor leader said he is "amazed at how much money" union workers are spending on new cars and remodeling their homes after President Joe Biden’s $86 billion bailout for failing union-managed multi-employer pensions. 

The bailout funds for the pensions was part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill Biden signed on March 11. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, leaders in the labor movement, and some Ohio Democratic lawmakers held a virtual event to celebrate the bill's support for the struggling pensions.

Mike Walden, a former member of Teamsters who has long been advocating for taxpayer assistance for the union pensions, joined Walsh during the discussion. According to a February 2020 Roll Call article, Walden's current organization is a "Teamsters-created group whose members in their black T-shirts with yellow lettering frequent the halls of House and Senate office buildings."

“We were better off when the mob was running things,” said Walden, president of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions, according to the report about his labor-related advocacy.

Walden was referring to the Teamsters' history involving past president Jimmy Hoffa's connections to the mob. According to the New York Times, Hoffa and six others were accused of "fraudulently arranging $25 million in loans" from the Teamstes' pension fund in 1964. Hoffa was found guilty of "mail and wire fraud and conspiracy," according to the report. 

On Thursday, Walden applauded Biden and the Democrat-led Congress for passing the rescue funding for the struggling union pensions. Walden said union members were making new purchases as soon as they heard that their pensions were saved. 

"Treasury's going to get taxes out of that right off the top, you know, back into the IRS, and then we're going to continue spending our money," Walden said. "We're too old to save, and we don't make enough to save so we put it back in. I can tell you just the start of this how many of my friends went out and bought new cars as soon as they heard that their pensions are going to be saved. And not only new cars, they've stepped up, they've picked up remodeling their homes, some of them are looking at homes rather than looking to sell their homes.

"We have some people that have been foreclosed on because they couldn't make the payment or didn't reduce. We're talking ironworkers in Cleveland, everywhere. But I'm just amazed at how much money just in the last few weeks that my friends are spending, including myself."

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters estimated that the bailout money would help over 50 of their pension funds. 

"While multiemployer pension plans have been buffeted by economic turbulence over the decades, the situation has been seriously exacerbated by the current pandemic," said Teamsters' current general president, Jimmy Hoffa Jr.

Walsh said Biden thought the $86 billion pension bailout was a "good fit" for the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill "because it was about relief for families and people who were hurting through no fault of their own."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 14.3 million members of public and private unions in the U.S. Walsh estimated that the $86 billion pension bailout would help 10.8 million retired and active union workers. 

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley joined Walsh and Walden during the event. 

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