News

Andy Martone Presents at AGC of Missouri Annual Convention

On February 22, 2017, HesseMartone Partner Andy Martone spoke before the Associated General Contractors of Missouri at the Annual Convention in Branson, Missouri. Andy spoke on various topics, including Missouri’s Right-to-Work law, state and federal prevailing wage updates and hot topics with regard to Pension Funds.

A copy of his presentation can be found here.

An Employers’ Quick Guide to a “Day Without Immigrants”

Workers advocacy groups have called for a national “Day Without Immigrants,” encouraging immigrant employees to skip their work day or walk out on their shifts as a broad-based protest to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Advocacy groups supporting the walk out have encouraged employees to walk out on Friday, February 17. How should employers’ respond to unscheduled absent employees tomorrow?

It is important for employers to keep the National Labor Relations Act regulations at the forefront of their planning. If an employee’s absence is based on a broad based, governmental action, it is unlikely that the employee’s action is protected. If an employee’s absence is a protest of his/her specific working conditions and/or the business situation of the employee is largely dependent on employing immigrants in some way, then it would be more likely that the National Labor Relations Act would protect the employee’s actions. Overall, employers should carefully and consistently apply their attendance policies, with a careful eye on the NLRA protections offered employees. Union organized businesses should, as well, consult their collective bargaining agreements for no strike/no protest language that will guide actions. Finally, as this area is fact and situational specific, we encourage employers to discuss these labor questions with their labor relations/employment counsel. For more information or assistance with questions, please contact Ashlie Kuehn at ashliekuehn@hessemartone.com.

Andy Martone Presents at IRTBA Annual Convention

On February 14, 2017, HesseMartone Partner Andy Martone will speak before the IRTBA at their Annual Convention on various topics, including Illinois Prevailing Wage Survey Worker Update and withdrawal liability.

A copy of his presentation can be found here.

Missouri Gov. Greitens Signs Right-To-Work Into Law

Missouri Governor Greitens signed Missouri Senate Bill 19 into law today, making Missouri the 28th Right-To-Work state. The full legislation can be viewed here.

HesseMartone Goes Wonderful World of Disney for USO of Missouri

HesseMartone attorneys and staff attended EPIC’s Sixth Annual Disney-themed trivia night, benefitting the USO of Missouri. The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. HesseMartone has been proud to represent EPIC Systems, Inc. on its labor and employment legal needs since 2007.

The Firm’s table received the award for best dressed/decorated and tied for 5th place!

Will Buchanan Joins HM St. Louis Office

Illinois Attorney General Seeks to Halt Illinois Employee Pay

A copy of the Motion to Present Additional Authority and to Dissolve Preliminary Injunction filed by Lisa Madigan’s Office can be found here.

Central States Withdrawal Liability Skyrockets

The Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Plan’s withdrawal liability valuation (which establishes the basis for withdrawal liability assessments during the January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016 period) as of December 31, 2015 prepared by Segal Consulting reports that the total level of the Fund’s unfunded vested liability (the amount that the Fund is “in the red”) is $29.2 billion, an increase of $4.8 billion from 2014.

This approximately $5 billion increase in the Fund’s level of unfunded vested benefits is more than twice the size of prior years’ increases.

The Segal Report attributes this substantial increase to a number of factors, the most important of which are:

1.         The Fund lowered it assumed net rate of return on investments from 7.5% (which it had used for years) to 6.25%;

2.         The Fund’s rate of return on its investments for 2015 was lower than was projected.

Central States also updated the mortality tables used by the Fund to calculate the life expectancy of people receiving benefits.

Two important notes:  (1) the Fund’s level of unfunded vested benefits was calculated prior to reduction for the value of outstanding claims for withdrawal liability that can reasonably be expected to be collected; and (2) the Fund’s level of unfunded vested liability for the Fund’s “New Employer Pool” was zero, meaning that the Fund lists the New Employer Pool as being fully funded.

A copy of the Segal report can be found here.

Andy Martone Presents to AGC of Illinois

On December 6, 2016, HesseMartone Partner Andy Martone spoke before the Associated General Contractors of Illinois at the 110th Annual Convention in Springfield, Illinois. Andy spoke on various topics, including discipline and discharge procedures under union collective bargaining agreements and legal update under OSHA and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

A copy of his presentation can be found here.

U.S. Treasury Approves Reduced Pension Benefits for Iron Workers Fund

On December 16, 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department notified the trustees of the Iron Workers Local 17 (Cleveland area) Pension Fund that their application to reduce pension benefits under the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (the “MPRA”) was approved.  This is the first time Treasury has approved a union pension plan’s proposed reduction of benefits under the 2014 law.  In May 2016, Treasury turned down the proposed “rescue plan” from the Central States Pension Fund, concluding that the plan did not have a reasonable chance of success to save the Central States Fund from insolvency.  Treasury has also recently rejected a number of other smaller union pension plan proposals.  For example, proposals from the pension funds of Teamster Local 469 in New Jersey and of Iron Workers Local 16 in Baltimore were both rejected by Treasury last month.

The MPRA application submitted to Treasury called for reducing benefits “indefinitely” to allow the plan to remain solvent with enough assets to pay the reduced level of benefits.  The primary considerations in Treasury’s approval:

  • Without the cuts, the entire pension fund will be insolvent within a decade, according to Fund projections. Iron Workers Local 17 earlier this year reported $224 million in long-term liabilities and only $90 million in assets.
  • Treasury found that the pension fund’s calculations and assumptions were realistic, based on what it could accomplish with the cuts, as well as its projections for future income from investments. This is largely what makes Local 17’s request for cuts different from Central States’ and other rejected plan proposals.

As a result of Treasury’s approval, the proposed benefit reductions will now be subject to a vote of participants and beneficiaries of the Pension Fund, whose vote will decide whether the proposed reductions will either go into effect or will be rejected.  Ballots will be mailed to participants and beneficiaries no later than December 31, 2016.  Under the MPRA statute, the veto by plan participants can be overridden by Treasury, but only if the plan is “systemically important” (meaning, if its insolvency would cost the PBGC losses of more than $1 billion).