Media Coverage Of Planned Parenthood Shooting, Teamsters Retirees Face Pension Cuts

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How does the media cover sensitive issues like recent shootings in California and Colorado, or a presidential frontrunner’s controversial statements? A media expert looks at how different news outlets handle difficult situations. Then we’ll speak to a labor expert about the possible cuts to pensions that retired Teamsters are facing.

Featured in this Show

  • Plan To Cut Teamsters' Pensions Could Be First Of Its Kind Approved Under New Law

    If a proposed restructuring plan by a multi-employer pension fund gets approved by the U.S. Treasury Department — a move that would entail major cuts to the pensions of thousands of retired Teamster Union members — it could be the first move of its kind allowed under a federal law that just passed last year.

    The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 allows funds to cut promised benefits if the “reductions are necessary to keep the plan from running out of money.” According to retired labor professor Frank Emspak, the law was passed at a time when a number of multiemployer plans, particularly in construction and trucking, were plagued with major financial problems, with some facing bankruptcy. Under law, they weren’t able to address those issues by reducing benefits.

    “As far as I can tell, there were no public hearings at all. Or if they were, I think they were pretty quiet. I think the law was kind of rushed through at the end (of the year),” said Emspak, the executive producer of Workers Independent News and professor emeritus of the Department of Labor Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    The Treasury Department does have the ability to modify or reject an application. In the case of the Central States Pension Fund, it’s appointed a prominent Washington attorney named Kenneth Feinberg to oversee the request. Feinberg is holding town hall meetings with retirees, including one in Milwaukee Wednesday, with the intention of getting public comment.

    Emspak attributes a number of factors that led to the Central States’ problems. According to him, deregulation of the trucking industry in the 1980s forced a large number of trucking companies, who once paid into the fund, to go out of business.

    Then, as employees starting reaching retirement age, the financial meltdown in 2008 occurred.

    “You have both a cut in income and an increase in expenses and no way to really make it up,” he said.

    Emspak said he believes the nation’s pension system in general is underfunded and doesn’t really work very well anymore after 30 years of continuing consolidations, reductions in employment, and stagnation of wages. And with millions of employees in other multiemployer plans, Emspak worries that the case of Central States could be indicative of the future pension cuts.

  • Media Coverage Of Recent Shootings And Donald Trump

    An expert analyzes how the media is covering recent shootings, including the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado and the San Bernardino shooting, and how the media is covering presidential candidate Donald Trump.

  • Retired Teamsters Face Severe Cuts In Pensions

    Retired Teamsters face severe cuts in their pensions as a “rescue plan” of their Pension Fund is considered to save it from going broke. We’ll speak with a labor expert about how this happened and what the likely outcome will be.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • KP Whaley Producer
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • Frank Emspak Guest
  • Mike Wagner Guest

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