WATCH: Elizabeth Warren Slammed Company for Screwing Workers… Then Made Them One of Her Corporate Clients
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign is defending her previous work for corporate clients like LTV Steel, but she slammed that company by name during a 1991 speech for screwing workers out of their pensions — four years before she went to work for them on that very issue.
The New York Times published a medium dive into Senator Warren’s previous work for corporate clients. Warren’s campaign tried to rip that band-aid off a few months ago by publishing disclosures about the legal work on her website, and aside from a brief focus on the money she was paid, little came of it.
But the Times took a closer look that included her work for a company named LTV Steel. Here’s how they summarized the case:
To settle a coal miners strike, the federal government forged an agreement that miners would have health care coverage when they retired, provided by their last employer. Over the years, as demand for coal declined, companies closed their mines and stopped paying these benefits.
To remedy the problem, in 1992, Congress passed the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act, to provide benefits for more than 100,000 retired miners. Each company that had operated coal mines, even those no longer in the business, would be required to pay into a fund for their retirees.
LTV objected to paying into the fund. The company had filed for bankruptcy in 1986, resolving claims from thousands of employees. The Coal Act, LTV now argued, retroactively imposed new liabilities based on events that had taken place years earlier and that therefore should have been resolved during bankruptcy.
Warren joined the company’s legal team in 1995 to try and get the Supreme Court to hear the case, but the court eventually denied their request.
Then-President Barack Obama spoke about the company during a 2009 speech to the AFL-CIO, describing a story he had been told about the toll LTV Steel’s bankruptcy had taken on one constituent. That very constituent was included in a brutal 2012 campaign ad from Warren’s Senate election opponent, Scott Brown, telling that exact story.
After 34 years with LTV Steel, I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy. I lost a third of my pension, and my family lost their healthcare. Every day of my life I sit at the kitchen table, across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family, and I can’t afford to pay for her health care.
That ad also featured Warren, in a 2006 interview, deriding LTV’s bankruptcy as the epitome of broken promises to workers. “LTV showed how you could lock up all the assets so that essentially the company could say, “We’re broke!” “The cupboard’s bare.” “There’s nothing here.” And breach all the promises then to the employees and retirees,” Warren said.
But even before Warren joined LTV’s legal team, she was an outspoken critic of what the company had done to workers. During a 1991 speech to the Federalist Society, Warren drew laughter from the crowd by talking about workers losing their pensions, and she name-checked LTV specifically.
“We bought labor peace in the ’70s and ’80s by promising those employees that they were going to have retirements like you wouldn’t believe,” Warren said.
“Well, you know what? They shouldn’t have believed because what’s happened is now it’s time to pay the piper,” she added, to laugher from the crowd. “LTV is just the first of many that we’re going to see along these lines, where the question is ‘What happens to all those promises you made to employees” when the businesses fail.
On her website, Warren’s campaign defends her work on the LTV case by saying that “Elizabeth represented a company that was asking the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s ruling that limited the ability of future employees, retirees and victims to receive any compensation at all from bankrupt companies.”
But at the time, others — including labor leaders and the Clinton administration — saw the case as a potential precedent for other companies to get out of their obligations. And in 2019, the Times notes, the Warren campaign “did not make her available to discuss her outside legal work.”
Watch the clip above, via The Federalist Society.
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