Pension Lobby Goes Full Throttle

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Four big airlines and all of their unions got together in an unheard-of show of unanimity last week, but don't credit the Christmas spirit. Enlightened self-interest is behind their show of force on Capitol Hill to try and press the House into taking up pension legislation passed by the Senate last month. The legislation would give the struggling airlines 20 years to make up shortfalls in pension funding, something they say they need to maintain the pension plans. However, the White House has said it will veto the provisions and it looks like the House doesn't want the confrontation because its version of the bill doesn't have any of that language. So American, Continental, Northwest and Delta got together with their unions to intensely lobby for the relief. Northwest and Delta are both in bankruptcy protection and could dump their pension liability on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is already staggering under the load from United and US Airways doing the same. Now the PBGC is having a hard time staying afloat and might need a government bailout.