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Is An Underfunded Pension The Real Reason Behind SEIU’s Sabotage-Tainted Strike?

Nearly a month after the SEIU had its members abandon elderly residents at several Connecticut nursing homes operated by Healthbridge Managment, the SEIU spin machine is going in full gear, even going so far as promoting a story over an elderly resident’s death.

Earlier this week Communist Party USA supporter, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro [D-CT] joined her striking campaign contributors on the picket line, telling strikers, “They don’t know how tough we are.”

Of course, DeLauro’s visit is only the latest in the parade of union-bought politicians the SEIU put together.

Previously, Connecticut’s publicity-seeking senator, Dick Blumenthal, as well as the state’s attorney general and governor* have shown up at the SEIU’s picket lines.

While their visits to the picket lines make for good photo ops with campaign contributors, their political presence may be nothing more than a ruse to help the SEIU hide the real reason for the strike, as well as the SEIU’s potential complicity in the alleged sabotage of elderly residents’ care (which Connecticut politicians seem to be ignoring).

According to a company press release, SEIU’s strike appears to be centered over an unrealstic view of today’s economy:

The context of the Health Care Centers’ negotiations with the Union is one in which skilled nursing centers, in the steadily eroded U.S. economy, had suffered significant cuts and/or failures to keep up with increased costs in Medicaid – the primary funding for the vast majority of Center residents – and Medicare.  Negotiations also occurred at a time in which the days of 100% employer-paid medical and other insurance, and 100% employer-paid pensions, were both long gone. HealthBridge Management knew that business as usual was simply not viable in the current economic environment.

Yet the Union demanded terms that showed no recognition whatsoever of the changed economic circumstances. It insisted that the Health Care Centers increase their pension contributions from 8% to 8.5% of Union members’ salaries into the SEIU pension plan, with no employee contribution.  The Union insisted that the Health Care Centers should continue paying 1% of the salaries of Union members into the SEIU Training Fund, when in fact it is doubtful whether many employees receive any benefit from this Fund. The Union also insisted that the Health Care Centers pay virtually 100% of all employee health insurance costs (until, late in the negotiations, the Union conceded that its members could pay a token amount).

Unsurprisingly, the SEIU’s spin on things is quite different:

The company’s position has barely changed since negotiations began in March 2011, according to SEIU 1199NE spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff.

Those alterations include eliminating staffing ratios, requiring workers to pay health insurance premiums for the first time, cutting sick days by half, preventing delegates from hearing grievances during work hours, and switching from an employer-funded pension to a 401k.

While union members contributing to health care may be a novel idea to the SEIU, just as a company not wanting to pay for union business may seem “evil,” it is this last issue (switching from a pension to a 401[k]) that is most interesting, since the union’s pension fund looks like a sinking ship. Like many union pension funds, the SEIU’s pension fund in New England appears to be under water.

According to the union’s filing with the Internal Revenue Service [ IRS Form 5500], as of December 31, 2010, the SEIU’s New England Healthcare Employees Pension Plan appeared to be only 54.29% funded and unable to meet its future obligations by hundreds of millions.

According to the SEIU’s 5500s, at the end of 2010, the pension fund only had $363.6 million in assets ($454.3 million according to the actuaries). However, it’s liabilities (the money it owes to present and future retirees) are $669.9 million.

In the best case, according to the 5500s, the SEIU’s pension is nearly $20 million underfunded. In the worst case, it is over $200 million underfunded.

Yet, according to the SEIU’s propagandists and union-bought politicians, HealthBridge Management is somehow at fault for wanting off the SEIU’s plummeting pension.

As the SEIU perpetuates its abandonment of nursing home residents and continues its parade of Democrat politicians in Connecticut, it is unfortunate that Connecticut Democrats refuse to investigate the truth behind this labor dispute—as well as the incidents of sabotage that took place as the SEIU walked out on strike.

Then again, truth is not something unions (or Democrats) are known for.

*Related: Malloy’s working groups to unionize daycare and healthcare get started quietly

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“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)

Cross-posted on LaborUnionReport.com

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