In the February 13 2022 tweet, Franklin wrote:
“Is now a good time remind truckers that EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN voted against saving truckers’ pensions last year?”
Despite the tweet’s cross-platform popularity, neither it nor screenshots of it included any reference to when precisely “EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN voted against saving truckers’ pensions.” One of the top comments on Imgur expressed what was perhaps a common question about the claims in the tweet:
This might be a dumb question, but how was Congress voting on truckers pensions? Isn’t that managed by the trucking companies?
In response to the question, another Imgur commenter provided possible context for Franklin’s statement:
It was a covid relief measure that bailed out $83B for union pensions in American Rescue Plan Act. Repubs specifically cited that measure as [an] “expensive gift” to democrat allies.
A March 17 2021 article on the website Labor Notes (“No One Else Was Going To, So These Teamsters Saved Their Own Pensions”) addressed the underlying problem involving truckers’ pensions. It referenced the pensions in question as Teamsters, and it began:
“When Don first got his letter saying his pension was going to be cut 52 percent, it was one of those moments like when President Kennedy was killed and 9/11,” said Dana Vargo, spouse of a retired Teamster. “You remember exactly where you were.”
“My letter said, starting in a couple months, your pension will go from $3,000 a month down to $1,500,” said Greg Smith, who had put in 31 years as a freight Teamster. “When people got those, all of a sudden the phone started ringing.”
It was 2015 when all 410,000 current and retired Teamsters in the Central States Pension Fund received that letter, informing them they would be spending their golden years broke. Congress had just made it legal for a multi-employer pension fund in “critical status” to yank back retirees’ hard-earned income. The Teamsters international had been complicit.
What chance did a bunch of ordinary retired truck drivers and their spouses have to stop the cuts? And yet, they did exactly that … Finally this March , the pension activists won a total victory: $86 billion from Congress, as part of the big economic stimulus bill, to restore all the ailing multiemployer funds to health, and to pay back everyone whose pensions had already been slashed.
They did it with sheer persistence—and because no one else was going to.
Labor Notes primarily focused on the organizing and trajectory of retired truckers’ attempts to rectify the problem with their pensions. One day earlier (on March 16 2021), NBC News’ “Democrats saved union pensions after Hoffa’s long campaign” provided further details about the bill and the vote in question:
No one knows better that elections have consequences than labor union leaders, who secured an $83 billion pension-fund bailout in President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.
“Without Joe Biden winning, and we won the two Senate seats in Georgia and we were able to do reconciliation, none of this would’ve happened,” James P. Hoffa, the general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said in a telephone interview with NBC News. “The Republicans weren’t going to do it.”
The Teamsters’ Central States pension fund, covering nearly 400,000 workers and retirees, is the marquee beneficiary of pension provisions attached to the larger relief bill. But labor leaders say as many as 200 plans will be shored up, providing direct benefit to as many as 1.5 million people in the short term, and many more overall.
“That means the difference between eating and not eating, and having a good retirement and one where you’re basically out there working trying to survive,” Hoffa said. “The No. 1 priority, we’ve solved it.”
Further into the article, NBC News reported:
Every Republican voted against the Covid-19 relief measure, and many of them specifically targeted the pension legislation for derision because they said it was an expensive gift from Democratic leaders to labor allies that would be funded by taxpayers.
“Americans know this bill will benefit states and unions that have been poorly mismanaged,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., said on the House floor.
On March 9 2021, the Brookings Institution published an article with the headline, “Pension bills have always been bipartisan. Not anymore,” explaining that efforts to save the pensions was no longer the collaborative political effort it had once been:
After more than a decade of attempts to reach a bipartisan agreement that would prevent 1.5 million retirees from losing their pensions, congressional Democrats finally gave up and decided to do the job themselves. They are using budget reconciliation to avoid a filibuster and allocate $80+ billion of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act to preserve the pensions. This will be the first time in memory that major pension legislation has not been bipartisan. Without exception, all major pension legislation since the passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in 1974 has been negotiated across party lines.
Why did bipartisanship fail? This catastrophe has been foreseen for more than a decade, and for more than a decade there have been efforts to negotiate a bipartisan solution. These involved a combination of taxpayer funds, “shared sacrifice” (i.e., cuts to pension benefits and increases in the insurance payments plans made to PBGC), and “governance changes” to limit actuarial optimism by plans, etc. Democrats, who were the minority in at least one house of Congress, favored more taxpayer funds and less sacrifice from workers or retirees. Republicans, most of whom viewed these as “union plans seeking a bailout”, favored benefit cuts, higher premiums, and governance changes; only reluctantly did some agree that federal funds would be necessary. Legislation without federal funds was negotiated in 2014, but the benefit cuts involved were so draconian that the Obama administration largely refused to implement the law. A bipartisan, bicameral special committee was established and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate an agreement that involved federal funds in 2018. Two years later, with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, another effort was made with the same result.
A March 8 2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer piece, “Congress bails out troubled pension plans for teamsters, Acme, carpenters, electricians, and others in Philly area,” also mentioned a sharp partisan divide emerging in national politics:
The bill passed the U.S. House and Senate on strictly partisan lines [on February 27 and March 6 2021 respectively] — no Republican voted for the stimulus package in the Senate or initially in the House. It is to go back before the House on Tuesday so legislators can iron out some differences. Supporters say House passage and President Joe Biden’s signature are assured.
In a controversial revision of pension law, Congress in 2014 permitted troubled pension plans to cut benefits to current retirees to save money for future ones. Only about 20 plans have chosen to do that. Under the pending legislation, full benefits would be restored for all such retirees and they would be made whole for past losses, according to Neal’s staff.
John Murphy, a Teamster union international vice president at-large and key lobbyist for the bailout, hailed it in an interview, saying the money would remove an “incredible amount of stress” burdening many retirees.
CBS News covered the bill’s movement through the House of Representatives, before it headed to the Senate:
The House passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package early Saturday morning [February 27 2021] almost entirely along partisan lines. The bill now goes the Senate, although it included a minimum wage hike that the Senate parliamentarian ruled on [February 25 2021] cannot be included if Congress uses the budget reconciliation process.
Two Democrats, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine, voted with the Republicans in the 219-212 vote. Not one Republican voted for the bill.
A Senate.gov “vote summary” for “H.R. 1319 (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021)” provided a breakdown of Senators’ votes by party, demonstrating a split along party lines with 50 “yeas,” 49 “nays,” and one abstention. Two “yeas” were Independent Senators and the balance Democrats; all 49 “nays” were Republicans, and the single abstention was Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
A popular February 13 2022 tweet by Chip Franklin rhetorically asked whether “now” was a good time to remind truckers that “EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN voted against saving truckers’ pensions last year” (in 2021). Franklin’s tweet referenced voting on the American Rescue Plan of 2021, a sweeping bill with provisions to bail out distressed pension funds — including those of truckers in the Teamsters union. As Franklin said, every single Republican in the House voted against the bill. In the Senate, one Republican abstained from voting, with all other Republicans again voting against the legislation. It was signed into law by United States President Joe Biden on March 11 2021.