Testimony from today’s (5/22) MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board

Boston Carmen's Union President Jimmy O'Brien seen here testifying before the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board about the MBTARF.

This afternoon, Boston Carmen’s Union President Jimmy O’Brien testified before the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Retirement Fund (MBTARF).

FMCB Testimony – MBTARF
Jimmy O’Brien, Boston Carmen’s Union
May 22, 2017

While the members of this board know that I am a board member of the MBTA Retirement Fund, I do not speak for the Board or the Fund unilaterally.

I am here to give voice to the members of the Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589, both retirees and current contributors.

It’s disappointing to stand here this morning, in defense of the pension – a pension MBTA employees were guaranteed, and one that they have earned. For a lot of MBTA employees – their jobs are not easy.

It is impossible to stand here today and not mention that one of our members was violently attacked this weekend. Bus drivers and train and trolley operators have some of the most difficult jobs. Believe me, they earn not only their paycheck, but their pension as well.

And, it’s disappointing, once again, to hear MBTA leadership throw a bunch of numbers around with the goal of sowing fear among pension holders. A similar effort seems to be underway to do the same with members of the state legislature.

I’m reminded of that famous quote about lies, damn lies, and statistics.

The MBTA again presents carefully selected statistics in an attempt to justify its goal of cutting the amount of money MBTA retirees will have to live on.

The means of doing this is to disparage the MBTARF and say it is performing badly.

But that’s simply not the case.

The truth is the 30 year average return for the MBTARF is over 9.00%.

The five year average return is over 8.00%.

The MBTA projects a 4% return over the next 10 years to scare people. Why else present a figure that does not accurately reflect the historical returns of the Fund?

Since 2015 the MBTA through layoffs, privatization, and retirement incentives, has experienced 728 retirements. At $80,000 per employee a year in wages and over $20,000 in pension and social security payments, the MBTA has transferred more than $72 Million in payroll costs to the pension plan.

As a result of that shift, the MBTA’s Pension Contributions have increased, but an honest review must look at both sides of the ledger—while pension contributions are up, the shift has reduced MBTA payroll by $61.5 Million since 2014.

The biggest challenge facing the MBTARF is that the MBTA has continually reduced the workforce, for decades, so there are more retirees that contributors. But MBTA leadership has been asleep at the switch, and failed to plan to manage the imbalance its workforce reductions have caused.

MBTA employees provide a public service.

Our contract promises a pension upon retirement, a pension that will allow us to retire, care for our families, and live our lives.

The General Manager—and the Pioneer Group, among others—often talks about our pensions as if we will be spending retirement sailing yachts in the Mediterranean.

The reality is that our pensions will allow hard working men and women to live with dignity, to enjoy their retirement.

At a time when the Federal Reserve says more than 50% of Americans will not have enough money during retirement to maintain their standard of living, why would the MBTA and Governor Baker want to weaken the safety net for these public servants?

The state MBTA warns it may no longer be able to honor the promises it made its employees.

Where I come from, a promise is a promise.

Permanent link to this article: https://carmensunion589.org/2017/05/testimony-todays-522-mbta-fiscal-management-control-board/


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    • Kennedy on May 25, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Governor has lied about his intent for the suspension of Pacheco Law. He publicly assured the Democratic legislature in May 2015 the suspension of the Pacheco Law is not about privatization. It isn’t about laying off scores of MBTA workers. ALL LIES! Two years later with historic union concessions from a number of T bargaining units, most notably from the 589, which will alone achieve nearly a BILLION DOLLARS in savings over the next 25 years–the hard working men and women of the MBTA clearly have shown they want to be part of the solution on delivery the best service to the riding public. The problem is that the Governor has a hidden agenda that is closely aligned with the right wing Pioneer Institute. This isn’t about fixing the T. This is all about a subscribing to a political ideology embraced by the 1% to bust unions, and do away with middle class jobs and pensions.The misinformation campaign has now moved on to focus on cutting pension benefits to retirees and current employees. This anti-labor administration is in full swing and is not going to stop until nothing is left. This administration is reloading, playing musical chairs between the GM office and FMCB for the final push to seal the deal. The 589 and other T unions better quickly realize this and begin to take its own bold action with Democrats. Enough is enough!

    • Theresa Kerrigan on May 24, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    The Union needs to step up it’s fight against the Governors takeover and we need to do it now, not a month from now. There needs to be an emergency meeting or least an event with us standing outside the State House and major train stations with members not all in orange uniforms with generic signs. The public relates to the MBTA uniforms. We need better signs attacking Governor Baker for attacking the middle class, not fixing the mismanagement at the MBTA, unnecessarily raising fares when he needs to enforce the fares for everyone, delaying our raise to save jobs while he and his staff receive raises, poor service from his private Brinks Company. The Governor is moving steadfast toward his agenda to take over the MBTA and our pensions, the public is out there protesting the fare hikes and we are sitting idle. We need to be out with signs at least one day a week. We are constitutes and not only can we effect the next election, but also public opinion. We need to start counterattacking the Governors attack on us with the passion his attack on us warrants. The Governor is not looking at alternative means to fund the pension, his present plan is to raise the fares and turn the taxpayers against us. Fix the system and stop making the paying customers accountable for the non-paying ones. The system in place is also putting employees in precarious and dangerous situations having to deal with all these non-paying customers. The major complaint appears to always revolve around revenue, yet they’re letting half the city for free. The Governors fixation, obsession, and goal is to Privatize the MBTA and take control of our pension making it his legacy. We need to present more like a union under attack on the verge of losing our jobs, our pensions, and the future we’ve planned for ourselves and our children. We have made enough concessions. Win or lose we need to fight this fight, and we need to do it now.

    • jcmbta on May 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    The politicians want that pension money . many reasons for them to use it to create wealth and special deals . the republicrats both love to see this pension totally controlled by them… NO surprise looks like another several hundred thousand $$$ for lawyers to keep them from it .. more wasteful spending of pension funds and our taxes.

    I was told by people in the business of stock/market trading the future looks good perhaps a 10% return over the next few years..

    4% on stock investments that would be if the dems pass higher taxes and more controls with the carbon tax as they did promise. that could only happen over 2 years from now , if they do somehow win.
    The Russians will again take out these dems by revealing how they are crooks.. repubs are also crooks but Russians rather deal with the repubs… LOL!

    lower taxes should get this economy moving again.. job market looks great also . I expect more demand for T service much more Boston is strong …

    • david on May 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Looks like the State and our politicians are finally getting there hands on our pension which they have been trying to do for years. Don’t understand how this came about some careless leadership some were not being smart enough to outsmart them. It is our pension and fully funded and it has no right to be touch or lotted out by others.I feel that there is no political party who cares about the working people in this country. They say they do but the last few years their actions show us different. All talk to get us to vote for them. Well forget the Democrate’s also they lie to us also. We need a strong third party in this country to bury both the Democrats and Republicans.

    • Lydia on May 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Actions speak louder than words.Why didn’t the Union call them out on giving themselves outrageous raises back a few months ago, while the union gave up their members arbitrated raises? The union should take the deal off the table, seeing that the Governor has lied about not taking jobs away,privatizing departments,etc..The Union needs to step up for its members by protecting their jobs and pension, not allow a bunch of political hacks take over. Hire an investment firm to handle the members pension instead of handing it over to the lying Governor who will only ruin it..

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