The 2013 Pension 40: David Blitzstein

David Blitzstein
Special Assistant for Multiemployer Funds
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Veteran labor executive David Blitzstein has been outspoken and pragmatic in his attempts to solve the underfunding of multiemployer pension schemes. Also called Taft-Hartley plans, these collectively bargained plans have equal union and employer representation on their boards of trustees. In 2007 and 2008, Blitzstein helped design a new type of plan that blends defined contribution and defined benefit schemes. This offering, dubbed the variable defined benefit, has a minimum floor and an adjustable benefit that depends on the performance of its investment portfolio. Two small unions have already adopted it. Washington-based Blitzstein, 59, says he wanted to “freeze legacy plans and come up with a future service plan that doesn’t have some of the embedded risk of the traditional DB.” The Philadelphia-area native, whose extended family was active in the labor movement, oversees pension and health care benefits for multiemployer plans; he’s a trustee for six funds that represent a total of 500,000 participants and $15 billion in assets. A longtime collective bargaining negotiator, Blitzstein in 2010 devised a unique pension agreement that merged and restructured benefits in four underfunded United Food and Commercial Workers International Union pensions with Cincinnati-based grocery chain Kroger Co. In 2011, President Obama appointed him to a three-year term on the advisory committee of the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

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