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Legislation looks to restore Delphi salaried retirees' pension benefits

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

There’s a new Congressional effort to restore pension benefits taken away from nearly 6,000 Michigan Delphi salaried retirees 13 years ago.

Nationwide, more than 20,000 Delphi pensioners and others lost as much as 70% of their vested benefits. That happened as part of the General Motors bankruptcy in 2009.

“It’s been a long 13-year nightmare,” said Bruce Gump, chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association (DSRA). “It’s time for it to end.”

The retirees took the issue to court. But The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling backing the government’s termination of their pension plans.

Now a bi-partisan group of members of Congress are stepping in.

They’re introducing legislation that would restore the pension benefits to the Delphi salaried retirees. If the bill becomes law, it will be up to the government-owned Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to determine how much the retirees would be owed.

“If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to retire with dignity,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), “These hardworking retirees have waited too long to receive the benefits they earned.”

The bill is named the Susan Muffley Act. Muffley was part of the DSRA’s core leadership in the effort to restore their pensions. Her husband worked at Delphi as an electronics technician for 31 years, but lost the full value of his pension in 2009.

Susan Muffley died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, after avoiding seeing her doctor due to her family’s financial constraints since her husband lost his pension.

But restoring their pension benefits won’t be cheap.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) estimates the total amount could be $1.1 billion.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.