She thought she would be retired, living off the coast of Florida, soaking up the sun on a beach, and working a night shift at a patio restaurant with a cool breeze. Instead, Carol Stacy is on her third brain surgery, barely living paycheck to paycheck, without a beach in sight.
Carol, 64-years-old, is one of 20,000 non-union former Delphi workers who had their pensions slashed when the Obama-Biden administration decided to bail out General Motors (GM) in 2009. She is one of three retirees I spoke to over the phone for part one of this series.
“My whole world was turned upside down,” she says.
In 2008, Carol still thought she would end up retired in Florida. She was putting two children through college and saving for her daughter’s wedding while working her 30th year at Delphi, an auto parts supplier for GM, in Dayton, Ohio.
Then, almost out of the blue, Carol got a phone call. Her pension was getting cut by 47 percent as a result of a deal between the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and the Obama-Biden administration. Hourly, salaried workers, on the other hand, were getting their pensions topped off.
“I said, ‘You can’t be serious,’” Carol said when she heard the news. “I didn’t think I would be able to live.”
The financial burden was too much to bear. Carol filed for bankruptcy, lost her home, took two minimum wage jobs (one of which she tells me she loved), could no longer afford to put her kids through college, and had to get help from her family.
“When they took the pensions away, and I had to file bankruptcy. Thankfully my daughter has a very good job and she was able to help me out,” Carol says. “My family members were buying groceries for me because I had no money, and they had to help me for six months before I could get disability benefits.”
Carol’s health issues have also piled up. She had to move into a small Nashville, Tennessee, apartment to be closer to doctors to better treat her neurological disease that has left her with memory loss. Though she has a daughter and granddaughter in Tennessee, the move has put her nearly 350 miles apart from most of her family in Dayton.
“It’s very lonely,” she tells me.
Carol secured Medicare in 2014. She says her eight-month stint without health insurance (she could not afford Obamacare, like so many Americans) left her praying to God she would not get sick. Her debt has racked up beyond anything she expected.
“I was on the phone with a debt settlement company trying to get it resolved because I am almost broke,” she tells me in our phone conversation. “I am barely living paycheck to paycheck.”
Did Carol ever hear from an elected official? Only one.
Carol says Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) reached out. Turner has most recently been in talks with President Trump to restore the Delphi workers’ pensions. No further details have been released on what that restoration could look like.
“It was so unfair, so ridiculous, and devastating that they would take our money and our health insurance and let everyone else keep everything they had,” she says.
David Muffley, in Kokomo, Indiana, saw his old job at Delphi get shipped off to China and his town of fewer than 58,000 residents undergo economic carnage. He worked at Delphi for 30 years. He says his former plant once employed thousands before it closed up shop. The remaining GM plant, he estimates, employs a few hundred Americans.
“I thought this town was going to dry up and blow away … a lot of this work went overseas,” David says. “There used to be hundreds of engineers. I’m sure a lot of them had to leave town — that’s what happened here in Kokomo and it’s bad.”
His story is his wife’s story. In late 2008, David was offered to leave Delphi and take a year’s worth of pay. He was only 55-years-old and didn’t qualify for Social Security until he turned 62. Still, he took the offer after having seen his coworkers and operations disappear through the years.
David figured he would get another job with good benefits. Then, his pension got slashed by about 30 percent — losing an estimated $130,000 to date. Even worse, his wife Sue started a physical and mental decline.
“I may not be one of the hardest hit, financially, but I would almost call it hell on earth,” he tells me in our hour phone conversation.
Sue began losing weight and her mind started going, David describes. She would get paranoid about mold growing in their home and David, keeping his wife happy, would promptly wash her clothes and throw furniture out at her request.
Simultaneously, Sue took an interest in working with the Delphi retirees, joining conference calls and doing extensive research on the issue.
“She felt bad not just for us; she felt bad for the 20,000 Delphi retirees, and she just wanted to help, and she gave it all until the end,” David says.
At the lowest point, David says he witnessed Sue collapsed on the ground in the middle of the night in their home.
“Here she was all skin and bones, collapsed. She was night walking,” he says, fighting tears. “That’s when I hit the bottom, to see her collapsed on the floor like that.”
Sue ended up having stage four pancreatic cancer. David says he had to work just to keep them both insured with healthcare. The medical bills were astronomical and he needed to pay for a caretaker to help his wife while he went to work.
“I had to have healthcare when Sue got sick,” he says. “I saw the hospital bill. It was over a quarter of a million dollars and if I didn’t have healthcare, I would have been wiped out.”
Sue died in 2012.
David, soon after, started downsizing. He sold all but one of the four horses he had bought for Sue. The most expensive horse, he tells me, is the one he kept.
Now, he says he’s waiting for Trump to make the first move and restore his pension.
“We were thrown under the bus,” David says. “Some people committed suicide. That actually happened, and it didn’t have to happen. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Linda, a pseudonym for a 65-year-old widow of a former Delphi worker with GM I spoke with, says she met her husband while working at a packaging company. The two were married for 30 years.
Richard, a pseudonym for her husband, had worked at Delphi for 38 years in western New York.
“I remember Richard saying Delphi had a solid retirement and lifetime healthcare and good benefits,” Linda says. “He believed that the golden years would be much easier than taking it on the chin at work. Everybody thought that.”
Then, in 2009, Linda says a notice went out that her husband’s pension, among 20,000 non-union Delphi workers’ pensions, was going to be slashed. The benefits, though, were mistakenly not cut — a detail that Linda only found out years later.
Richard died of cancer in October 2009.
Years and years later, Linda says the PBGC reached out to tell her that she had been given too much money from her husband’s pension and needed to pay it back.
“I got a letter in the mail that said, ‘Oops, you owe us $35,000 because we’ve been overpaying you since 2009,’” she tells me.
Linda appealed the measure but ultimately had her husband’s pension further cut back by at least 25 percent.
“It was devastating,” she says. “I was already reduced for the survivor’s pension. The whole thing has been a significant hardship. I had to go out and get healthcare and things that we were promised but didn’t get.”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came knocking on Linda’s door years later, auditing her and claiming she owed the federal government more money. Like she had done with the PBGC, she fought back.
This time, she won, and the IRS effectively admitted they were wrong in their assessment that she owed them some $7,500 from previous tax returns.
“I’ve lost so much faith in my government,” Linda says during our conversation. “It certainly doesn’t represent the people.”
While a federal report in 2013 detailed that the Delphi workers would likely have their pensions cut by an estimated $440 million, federal documents revealed a year before how the Obama-Biden administration’s Treasury Department worked to gut the pensions. In other emails, PBGC officials indicated they had the green light from the Obama-Biden administration to slash the pensions.
The entire experience has made Linda rethink how she will retire. Currently, she works at a seafood distribution company that her brother operates in western New York.
“It was significant enough where I’d think, ‘Goodness, that was groceries for a month’ or ‘That could have been an HOA fee if I’d moved into a condo,’” she says of the pension funds she should have gotten before it was cut.
“It made me pull back a little bit in terms of what I thought I would be able to do,” Linda says. “And you feel powerless. How many of us have to die before this just goes away?”
Linda recalls that Richard felt hurt by the way he and his colleagues were singled out for pension cuts in the bailout. She’s taken small steps to get justice for him, one being spending her hard-earned money elsewhere.
“I stopped driving a GM car,” she says. “I drive a Subaru now.”
This is part one of a Breitbart News series profiling forgotten Delphi workers.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.