We would like to correct the untruths in Scott Ford’s letter printed in the Norwalk Reflector on December 20, 2017, concerning the Maple City Ice Company strike. We have not taken away the striking drivers’ pensions. The drivers are still entitled to their vested pension benefits based on their years of service in the Plan. The only way they would lose their pensions is if the Central States Pension Plan (CSPP) runs out of funds to pay the pensions that they promised.
Despite making every required contribution on behalf of our drivers, it was never enough to fund the Plan. We still have an unfunded liability of approximately $3,000,000, which we will pay when we withdraw from the Plan. Too bad this unfunded liability money can’t be paid to our employees rather than to the CSPP, but the law does not allow that.
The cost of the CSPP for the past five years for our 8 drivers on strike was approximately $300,000. The Company is not pocketing any savings by withdrawing from this Plan, as Mr. Ford incorrectly stated. Instead, we have offered these drivers $375,000 over the next five-year contract to keep or invest as they choose; $304,600 upon ratification of the contract, and $70,400 over the next four years. Mr. Ford mentioned the $70,400 total; however, he neglected to mention the initial $304,600 payment.
Mr. Ford made a big deal about the employees giving up wages in order to make higher contributions to the Plan. Over the last 15 years, the plan cost between $7,000 and $8,000 per employee, per year, in contributions. From that, the drivers paid $1,500 out of their wages and the Company paid the balance.
Sen. Sherrod Brown has introduced a bill that would bail out failing pension plans, as Mr. Ford stated. However, we can find no evidence that Sen. Rob Portman has endorsed this bill.
The strike is over with no change in our previous offer, no thanks to the outside self-proclaimed business experts who seem bent on hurting good jobs in Norwalk. Several of the employees returned to work before the end of the strike. No wonder there are several hundred fewer jobs in Norwalk than years before.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Patricia A. Hipp serves as president of Maple City Ice.