For first time, lawmakers aim for legislative Delphi salaried solution

Delphi salaried retirees Tom Green, left, Marlane Bengry and Tom Rose, in a 2013 file photo
Caption
Delphi salaried retirees Tom Green, left, Marlane Bengry and Tom Rose, in a 2013 file photo

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

For the first time, a bipartisan, bicameral attempt to make Delphi salaried retirees whole is being attempted — a legislative effort to address the fact that many Delphi salaried retirees have not been getting paid their full pensions for more than a decade.

“What we have, for the first time, is real legislation that we’re negotiating,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner said in an interview Tuesday. “And that’s the new step. Getting to the process where that legislation is finished is what we’re working on now.”

No solution is imminent, he cautioned. But the hope is that a legislative vehicle can be crafted that will pass both the House and the Senate, he said.

ExploreFormer pension director: Congress must help Delphi retirees

For well over a decade, the problem has been a stubborn one for thousands of retired Delphi managers and engineers, many of them living here in the Dayton area.

A bit of the history: Auto parts producer and one-time Dayton manufacturer Delphi (now Aptiv Plc) filed for bankruptcy in October 2005. General Motors, which used to own Delphi, went through its own bankruptcy journey four years later.

An association of retired Delphi salaried employees sued the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. in 2009 after the agency took over employee pensions in the wake of Delphi’s bankruptcy.

The relinquishment of the pensions to the PBGC left Delphi salaried retirees with greatly diminished pensions, which stung particularly because GM continued contributing to the pensions of union-represented retirees, under the guidance of the then-new Obama administration.

The salaried retirees never begrudged their hourly counterparts their full pensions — they just wanted the same treatment.

The courts have not been kind to the retirees’ legal efforts, however. A U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision sided with a March 2019 Michigan federal court ruling that dismissed the retirees’ lawsuit against the PBGC.

Now, the association has approached the Supreme Court to see if the nation’s top court will take the case. A decision on whether to take the case is not expected until December or January.

However, some observers have long felt this is a job for Congress.

“What happened 10 years ago was a tragedy, but what has happened since has been a scam because the politicians won’t do the one thing that will get the pensions back,” Joshua Gotbaum, who led the PBGC from late 2010 until 2014, told the Dayton Daily News a year ago.

The congressional delegation from Michigan and Ohio is the group most involved, Turner said, who specifically cited his Democratic colleague Tim Ryan as also being involved in the effort. A message seeking comment from Ryan was sent to his staff Tuesday.

Turner, R-Dayton, would not put a timeline on the effort.

In an interview Wednesday, Ryan, D-Howland, said he and his colleagues are working on the bill’s language and on the right vehicle on which to attach a bill, which would likely not be a standalone piece of legislation.

“We have not forgotten, we’ve not given up,” said Ryan, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next year’s U.S. Senate race. “We are working, sometimes publicly and sometimes behind the scenes, on fixing this, on making them whole.”

Reached for comment Wednesday, Tom Rose, a Washington Twp. resident and member of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association, said the group has always pursued three avenues to restore their pensions: Legal, administrative and legislative.

“We are absolutely still in the fight,” Rose said.

Ron Beeber, a DSRA board member, said the association’s cause is winning support from both major parties. In Michigan, four Democrat and four Republican U.S. House members recently co-signed a letter to the three Biden Administration cabinet secretaries who comprise the PBGC board.  So did both of Michigan’s Democratic U.S. senators, and both of Ohio’s U.S. senators, Ron Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat.

“It is very heartening to see support for our cause from both sides of the aisle,” Beeber said.

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