New IAM Pension Video Spurs Debate at AFL-CIO Conference

In the new IAM video “Pensions 101: Surviving Bankruptcy,” IAM Local 1725 member Bill Wise shares his personal story as a union member working for a company filing for bankruptcy.

Secretary-Treasurers from AFL-CIO-affiliated unions across the nation received a front row seat to the IAM’s premiere showing of “Pensions 101: Surviving Bankruptcy,” an introductory video to a new program the IAM is building to teach unions and union representatives how to better protect their members at companies facing corporate bankruptcy.

IAM General-Secretary Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr., presented the video at the AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurers’ Annual Conference in Washington, DC.

Watch “Pensions 101: Surviving Bankruptcy” here.

The showing sparked a robust discussion amongst the Secretary-Treasurers on the importance of the issue.

“Our 15-minute video hit home for a lot of unions from the Mineworkers to the Bakers,” said Roach. “Once we got started, people didn’t want to stop. It incited something in the room.”

“Pensions 101: Surviving Bankruptcy” features IAM members who faced bankruptcies at US Airways and Hawker Beechcraft, retired AFSCME members currently fighting for their pensions in the wake of the city of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy filing, and a corporate bankruptcy and pension expert panel culminated by the IAM.

The video is the beginning of an IAM effort, which started early last year, to build an education program that would teach union representatives how to fight back.

“It’s a playbook for navigating unions through the corporate bankruptcy process,” said Roach. “The IAM, having experienced extensive bankruptcies particularly in the airline industry, recognized the need for this kind of training. We began working with our experts, staff, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and the SUNY Empire State College Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies in developing a program equivalent to current well-known and established university programs that teach business students how to break contracts in bankruptcies and steal our benefits in the first place.”

William W. Winpisinger Director Chris Wagoner, SUNY Dean Michael Merrill, PBGC Negotiations and Restructuring Chief Sanford Rich, and PBGC Chief Counsel Israel Goldowitz attended the meeting and are assisting with the IAM program.  Bankruptcy attorney Sharon Levine of Lowenstein Sandler LLP is also volunteering her years of experience and expertise.

Watch “Pensions 101: Surviving Bankruptcy” here.