ANDERSON — The Great Recession hit the automobile industry hard and General Motors and its top parts supplier, Delphi, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2009.
Decisions were made by the federal government to try and save both companies.
That's where the trouble started according to James Herbert. He's a retired Delphi worker who spent 30 years with GM and 10 with Delphi, the company General Motors spun off in 1999.
"I'm living now on a reduced pension from them, plus my social security. It's not what I thought I'd have when I retired," Herbert said. "We've been fighting for 13 years to gain back the money we had put in that pension fund."
The U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. took control of Delphi's pension plan.
The corporation cut pensions by as much as 70% on grounds it could not pay more than the statutory maximum amount.
Herbert said he, and other impacted employees, fought this in the court system. Their pension plan, according to Herbert, was 86% funded.
"That was one of the best rates in the country at the time, so it's not like our pension plan was underfunded. The money was there," he said.
In January, the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association's long legal battle ended when the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. Now, they're turning to Capitol Hill.
"We're trying to get that legislation passed so that we can get our full pension back, inject that money back in the economy and help the people who really earned that money in the first place," Herbert said.
The Susan Muffley Act would restore the full vested monthly benefits for eligible participants of certain pension plans that were sponsored by Delphi Corporation and terminated as a result of General Motors' bankruptcy in 2009. It would also change their current monthly benefits and provide participants with a lump sum payment if they're due any money based on the recalculations.
"There are people in Congress who feel this wrong really needs to be made right," Ron Beeber, another retiree dealing with a cut pension, said.
Beeber said according to calculations from the DSRA, there would be a huge economic impact if the full pensions are restored.
"It's close to a billion dollars that comes back to Indiana because if the pension plan is restored, these 4,000 people get paid back what's been withheld from them all these years," Beeber said. "Then, going forward, everybody gets their full pension. That's an economic multiplier. People get income. They spend it. Other people get income from that and so forth."
Indiana Reps. Jim Banks, André Carson, Frank Mrvan, & Victoria Spartz along with Republican Sen. Todd Young, have voiced their support of the bill to restore the pensions. It also has bipartisan support from lawmakers in Michigan and Ohio.
In total, more than 20,000 Delphi retirees would be impacted. Delphi Salaried workers were the only employees to take a hit on their pension according to Herbert and Beeber.
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