President Donald Trump and his administration officially are looking at ways to restore the pensions of thousands of Delphi Automotive non-union, salaried retirees.
According to a memo released by the White House Thursday, Trump has assigned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Jr. to come up with recommendations on how to legally restore, if at all possible, the pension benefits to thousands of salaried retirees that were severely reduced after the company came out of bankruptcy and relinquished control of its pension to the federally chartered Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) in 2009.
The majority of retirees represented by unions, however, had their pensions "topped up" each month, thanks to a promise GM made after the 2009 taxpayer funded bailout. The same was not made for Delphi's salaried retirees, who lost up to 70% of their monthly pension benefits, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many who felt they received the short end of the stick. Salaried retirees also had their health and life insurance cut completely.
The memo requires Mnuchin, Scalia and Ross to report back to Trump within 90 days. Notably, 90 days from Thursday is Jan. 20, 2021, which is the inauguration day for a new four-year term for the president of the United States.
“The previous [Barack Obama and Joe Biden] Administration failed to fully protect the pensions of Delphi’s salaried and non-unionized workforce, despite that Administration’s substantial influence over General Motors’ bankruptcy proceedings,” the memo reads. “Its actions in this regard are yet another example of how it failed American workers. By contrast, the plight of Delphi’s salaried and non-unionized workforce is of great concern to my Administration, which is committed to protecting all American workers.”
Any action would either be through an executive order or through legislative means.
Peter Navarro, Trump’s assistant and director of trade and manufacturing policy, told the Dayton Daily News in late September that the most likely course of action will be an executive order calling for the PBGC to increase pension payments.
“We have to run some legal traps first,” Navarro told the newspaper. “You look at your options. You have to look at what your statutory authorities are. You draft the document, then you have to run the traps over at the Office of the Legal Counsel and (the Department of) Justice. That takes some time.
“It’s a high priority. I will personally try to move this at least in terms of the legal review as quickly as we can.”
Thursday’s memo doesn’t guarantee anything will be done, but Den Black, board chairman for the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association, called the memo the “best news since this nightmare began 11 years ago” in a press release.
“This President is showing concern for all American workers,” Black said in the release. “DSRA members never gave up. We appreciate his attention and help.”
Restoring salaried employees’ pension does have support from former vice president and current Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, as well.
Biden, in a late September interview with Ohio media, said he supports including salaried retirees into the proposed Butch Lewis Act of 2017, which, if passed by Congress, would allow the Treasury to loan money to financially troubled pension plans so they can fully pay the benefits of retirees.
“I support the Butch Lewis Act, but it doesn’t cover the salaried employees, the non-union employees,” Biden said “I’m going to do everything I can to figure out how they can be brought in... I’m going to be working with your senator [U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who authored the Butch Lewis Act if 2017] to figure how we can in fact bring in the salaried worker who are really hurt. They deserve their pension.”