Thursday, March 25, 2010

Union pension funds to be bailed out by taxpayers

Nonunion workers and private companies could be forced into absorbing the financial liabilities of underfunded union pension plans, thanks to pending health care mandates and an executive order that could be finalized this year, policy analysts and trade group representatives have concluded.

Even as unions continue to market themselves to new members on the basis of generous pension programs, government figures show these plans are performing poorly in comparison with retirement packages that operate beyond the orbit of organized labor.

In addition, unions are pushing the Obama administration on project labor agreements (PLAs), which, among other things, will give their pension plans new sources of outside funding - nonunion workers on government contracts worth more than $25 million.

The average union pension has resources to cover only 62 percent of what is owed to participants, according to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. Pensions with less than 80 percent of the assets needed to cover present and projected liabilities are considered "endangered," while those that fall below a 65 percent threshold are classified as "critical" under the Pension Protection Act of 2006.