What’s Happening to Our Pensions?!

As everyone knows, the Staff Representative’s Union (SRU) has reached a tentative agreement with the International Union on a contract extension that includes wage increases, bonuses and cuts in pensions. Local 3657 will be entering contract negotiations with the International Union later this month and we anticipate that the International Union will be presenting a very similar proposal.

So what does this mean for us?

The short answer is nobody knows yet. A copy of the SRU Tentative Agreement is on the Local 3657 website along with a copy of the most recent Summary Plan Description for the USW Staff Pension Plan (that document hasn’t been updated since 2000). You can also find examples of how the pension plan in the SRU Tentative Agreement would impact various members of Local 3657 if it were implemented.

But we haven’t agreed to changes in the pension plan yet and we’re not certain that we will.

We still don’t have enough information on the SRU Tentative Agreement to understand how it would impact members of Local 3657 or our families. Particularly, we do not know how the changes to the Joint and Survivor option would impact members of our local or how the 97% ‘safety net’ would be calculated. If anyone tells you that they know exactly how the changes to the pension plan would impact you and your family, they are probably wrong.

More importantly we do not know if changes to the pension plan are necessary or that the changes reflected in the SRU Tentative Agreement would adequately address the financial issues facing our union and our pension plans.

We are not naïve. There is no doubt that, with the declining membership of our union and the union’s failure to develop a model to effectively organize workers in today’s workplaces, our union is facing real financial challenges. We also know that after being provided with explanations the financial challenges facing the union and explanations of how their Tentative Agreement would impact their members and their families the SRU Executive Board voted unanimously to recommend their Tentative Agreement.


Getting All the Information, Making the Right Decisions—Together

Our Local Union is set to enter contract negotiations on June 26th. At that time, we’ll ask the International Union to provide us with enough information to fully understand their proposal and how it would help to address the long-term financial challenges facing the union and make our pension plans more sustainable and secure. We’ll bring that information to all of the members of Local 3657 along with a recommendation on whether or not we should accept the offer and together we will make a decision about how to move forward.

It’s still way too early in the process to tell how this is going to turn out but we are committed to keeping everyone informed throughout the process. We also want to assure everyone that you will have an opportunity to have your questions answered and fully understand any proposals before anyone is asked to vote on an offer.


Other Key Issues on the Table

To be sure, the pension issue is a big issue but there are other big issues on the table. Earlier this month we asked you all what issues mattered most to you in this round of negotiations and beyond the core economic issues, the membership of Local 3657 made it clear that we need to fix the broken system for lateral transfers in the headquarters and make educational and promotional opportunities available to Local 3657 members.

With that direction from the members of Local 3657, our bargaining committee has prepared a focused agenda to address the key issues facing our local. Certainly, we will not be able to fix all of the problems that were identified through the survey process, but if we all stand together we are hopeful that we can make improvements to address core issues we’re facing at work.

Thank you all for your support and solidarity. We will keep you all updated as this process unfolds. In the mean time, stay strong and stay together.

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