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The WCTPT trustees are well aware of issues threatening Central States. The WCTPT is actively recruiting as many new members as it can, in as diverse an array of jobs as possible, and it no longer matters whether they work in the 13 western states. “That was a new concept,” says Dodge. “We want this to be the plan of choice,” adds Sander, pointing to the 1,000-plus new participants added from December 2013 through the end of March 2014.

“We’re dismayed by the seeming abandonment of the traditional defined benefit plan, a model that works, and we’re living proof that it works,” Sander says. “We have 230,000 retirees getting a check every month. If I can replace 65 percent of a truck driver’s last wage, it’s a victory.”

For employers who want out, Sander’s Northwest Administrators has set up rapid-response teams to speak with unions and employers about the benefits of the pension plan. “We’ve been pretty successful in getting parties to continue with the plan and new units into the plan,” co-chairman Mack says.

The WCTPT is now providing benefits in Indiana, Michigan, New York and Ohio. Unionists like fresh-salad packagers in California’s Salinas Valley have replaced some of the workers lost in the decline of the canned-food industry. In California the hope survives that, like Rock Transport, employers will be won over by workers worried about their futures. • •

Follow Frances Denmark on Twitter at @FrancesDenmark.

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