Trump issues 'memorandum’ for Delphi salaried retirees

Delphi retirees rally in this 2012 file photo.
Delphi retirees rally in this 2012 file photo.

‘This is the best news since this nightmare began 11 years ago,’ retiree says

President Donald Trump issued a presidential memorandum Thursday urging leaders in his administration to seek to restore the full pensions of salaried retirees of Delphi.

Trump was “committed to timely action” in helping Delphi salaried retirees win back their full pensions, Peter Navarro, assistant to Trump for trade and manufacturing policy, said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News last month.

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That assistance could take the form of an executive order, and that may come as early this year, Navarro said then.

“This has the president’s attention, and we’re moving,” Navarro said in a Sept. 24 interview. “We’re looking at it.”

The document released Thursday says in part: “The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy, shall review the Delphi matter described in subsection 1(a) of this memorandum and inform the President within 90 days of the date of this memorandum of any appropriate action that may be taken, consistent with applicable law, to (i) address affected Delphi retirees' lost pension benefits, and (ii) bring additional transparency to the decision to terminate the plan, consistent with appropriate protections for privileged and confidential material.”

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The background here is a long one: Both General Motors and auto parts maker Delphi suffered stints in big bankruptcy cases more than a decade ago. But Delphi salaried retirees always questioned why they lost their full retirement pensions when GM salaried retirees, and Delphi union-represented workers, were made whole, in part with support from GM.

Trump assured both Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, last month on an Air Force One flight that he is considering action on behalf of Delphi salaried retirees who for years maintained that that they were unjustly stripped of pensions for which they had worked their entire careers.

They sued in federal court for restoration of their pensions, with no success. Most recently, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court ruling and found that the PBGC’s actions “cannot be found to be arbitrary and capricious.”

In an interview, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said the memo could be seen as a step toward a possible executive order on behalf of the retirees.

The memo is an order to Trump cabinet members to review the actions of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) and to see what steps the administration can take, Turner said. Possible steps include administrative or legislative action.

According to its payment formulas, the PBGC can pay less than retirees had expected to be paid from their former private employers. The PBGC has said it followed statutory formulas in calculating pensions for Delphi salaried retirees, but both Turner and the retirees have rejected that argument.

“The Delphi salaried retirees believe administrative action will be available,” Turner said. “But the president has given himself and his administration the option that if legislative action needs to be taken, they will pursue that.”

“This has been hard-fought by the Delphi salaried retirees,” he added.

“I’d like to applaud President Trump’s executive action to help the more than 5,000 Delphi retirees in Ohio today," Sen. Rob Portman said in a statement. The retirees "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.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown called the memo a “political stunt.”

“The Butch Lewis Act has passed the House and has bipartisan support in the Senate, yet Trump and Senate Republicans have refused to act every step of the way," Brown said, referring to legislation that would let the government make low-interest loans to troubled pension plans. “The fact that the Trump administration is only now seeing the multiemployer pensions crisis as urgent is offensive to the workers, retirees, and small businesses whose lives hang in the balance. We certainly don’t need another study to know this is a problem."

“This is the best news since this nightmare began 11 years ago," said Den Black, chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association. “The DSRA board of directors and members sincerely appreciate and are grateful to President Trump for his intervention to achieve closure of this ordeal.”

Added Black: “We are very thankful to Congressman Turner for his ongoing leadership and initiative as well as to congressional representatives from both parties who in the past month signed a letter urging the president to intervene.”

A PBGC spokesman declined to comment Thursday.

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