Trump moves to help Delphi retirees fight
President Donald Trump has taken executive action to help a group of Delphi salaried retirees who have been fighting 11 years to restore their lost pension when the auto parts manufacturer went bankrupt.
Thursday’s presidential memo directs members of his cabinet to report to Trump within 90 days recommendations to remedy the reduced retirement benefits that happened when the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation took responsibility for the pensions.
The review will include whether the pension plan can be restored to pretermination status and bring additional transparency to the decision to terminate the plan.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, U.S. Secretary of Labor Wilbur Ross and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were directed to perform the review with help from Peter Navarro, Trump’s assistant for Trade and Manufacturing Policy. The directive also contains a 180-day implementation period. Remedies may include legislative or administrative options.
“This is a very good day for blue collar America and over the next days we’re going to work really hard on this problem and see if we can crack what’s been a very difficult nut primarily because of the lack of will in the previous administration,” said Navarro in an afternoon conference call with reporters.
Delphi, formerly Packard Electric that at one time was part of General Motors’ parts division, filed for bankruptcy in October 2005 and emerged four years later. While Delphi was in bankruptcy protection in 2009, it relinquished responsibility for all of its employee pensions to PBGC.
General Motors continued contributing to union-represented retirees, but salaried retirees were left with substantially reduced pensions, some by as much as 70 percent. Those salaried retirees have argued the administration of former President Barack Obama ignored them while guiding GM through its own 2009 bankruptcy.
About 20,000 pensioners, including some 1,500 local people, were impacted.
“It’s fair to say that this is the best news we have had in this 11-year nightmare that we were pushed into,” said Bruce Gump of Howland, vice president of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association. “We are extremely grateful to President Trump to show he cares about our group and we look forward with him to completing the studies and restoring our pensions.”
But why now? The directive came just hours before the second and last presidential debate between Trump, a Republican, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Recent polling shows a statistical dead heat in Ohio, a traditional swing state that contains a large number of Delphi salaried retirees.
Said Navarro, “This issue was in litigation by Delphi and it took them a while for that to run its course. After it ran its course, Congressman Mike Turner and Sen. Rob Portman approached the White House about it. That was some months ago and we worked diligently on it and this is what we came up with in what I like to call Trump time, which is as quickly as possible.”
The matter remains in litigation. Last week, the group asked the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling in September that sided with a lower federal court ruling to dismiss the retirees’ 2009 lawsuit against the PBGC to restore the benefits.
The court hasn’t yet determined whether it will readdress the ruling, Gump said.
It was Turner, a Republican from Dayton, who has pressing the for years to have the pensions restored, and Gov. Mike DeWine who asked Trump earlier in September to step into the matter on the side of the retirees.
Portman, R-Ohio, also has been a vocal advocate as has Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Howland.
“I have fought for years to help these Delphi retirees receive the pension and health care benefits they have earned after getting a raw deal from the Obama administration. They deserve to have their pensions restored. Today’s news means they are one step closer to seeing their pension benefits reinstated, and I’m pleased the president took action to help them,” Portman said in a statement.
Said Ryan, “Multiple times I have urged President Trump to intervene on behalf of Delphi salaried retirees. I support any effort that will fix this egregious issue and stand ready to work with the Administration to help make Delphi salaried retirees whole, but they need action, not more reviews. I have worked across the aisle since day one on this issue, calling on both the Obama and Trump Administrations to intervene on their behalf. Delphi salaried retirees shouldn’t have to wait another day to receive the benefits they earned.”