Jul 13, 2010
Throughout the past year and a half, union bosses have won a number of concessions from the Obama Administration in campaign finance legislation, rules governing the award of government contracts and the president’s health care law. But perhaps none of these kickbacks or sweetheart deals are as glaring as the “unusual arrangement” that led to the pensions of former union employees of the now-bankrupt Delphi corporation being picked up in full, while salaried retirees were left to face the loss of up to 70 percent of their benefits.
As numerous news agencies have reported, this disparate treatment could lead thousands of southwest Ohio Delphi retirees, and nearly 15,000 nationwide, to lose nearly $300,000 in benefits over the course of their lifetime.
In a December 2009 congressional hearing, former Delphi retirees told lawmakers they were “thrown under the bus” when General Motors – the recipient of $60 billion in taxpayer bailout money – agreed to what the Buffalo News has called an “unusual arrangement” that benefitted former union employees, but left them out in the cold:
‘It was a U.S. government decision to pick and choose which groups it was going to support,’ said Bruce Gump, a former Delphi salaried employee from Warren, Ohio.
‘It’s either political, or it’s the concern over them striking,’ said Jim Frost, one of the retirees group leaders from Clarence, New York.
Since the announcement of this decision, Obama Administration officials have repeatedly refused to offer any detail as to whether government officials exerted influence in General Motors’ decision.
In fact, last week, rather than allow a senior administration nominee to face questions about the disparate treatment of Delphi retirees, President Obama disregarded the concerns of liberal-ally Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and dodged the constitutional mandate that requires high-level executive branch officials be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Congress has not exhausted its authority to get to the bottom of this serious situation, however. Reform-minded legislators in both chambers of Congress continue to call on the administration to explain its role in the decision-making process so that lawmakers can determine the cause of the disparate treatment and make sure it never happens again.
Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) has introduced a Resolution of Inquiry – H. Res. 591 -- requesting information from the Obama Administration regarding the Delphi decision, as well as other documents relating to the government’s role in the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler. The resolution passed committee last year, but Democrats refuse to schedule it for a vote before the House.
Several weeks ago, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) followed up on the efforts of Boehner and fellow Ohio members of Congress by introducing a bill in the Senate to require the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a non-partisan analysis of the treatment of salaried Delphi Retirees. To date, none of Senator Wicker’s colleagues in the upper-chamber are supporting this important legislation.
As the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee holds a hearing in Northeast Ohio today to gather more testimony from salaried Delphi retirees, Congressman Boehner again called for the Obama Administration to take the first steps toward rectifying this disparate treatment by answering questions about its involvement in the decision:
The American people, especially those affected by the bankruptcy proceedings, deserve to be a part of an open and transparent process. Yet one year later, neither GM nor the Automotive Task Force has provided a full explanation as to why some Delphi pension obligations will be met by GM while the salaried retirees are not made whole.
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