The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, which has chapters across the United States and Canada, represents more than half a million workers in a variety of construction trades. Members work as general carpenters, millwrights, lathers, cabinet makers, floor coverers and interior system carpenters. The international union leaves decisions about retirement eligibility to local chapters. While some chapters allow early retirement and pension payouts at age 55 under certain conditions, full retirement and full pensions typically begin between ages 61 and 65.
Eligibility for a Pension
While most chapters allow early retirement at age 55 with reduced benefits, full benefits aren't available until 62 to 65, depending on local rules and eligibility. Carpenters Union Local 13, for example, allows its Chicago-area members to retire at age 55 with a lower monthly payment and at age 65 at full benefits, provided they have the required years of service. Disabled members can receive pensions under certain conditions after 10 years of work. At New England Carpenters Union chapters, you can receive full retirement benefits at age 62 if you have earned 10 pension credits. A pension credit is earned after 840 hours of work during a one-year period.
Regardless of the local, your years of service and the number of hours you work each year determine when you become vested in your plan, which means you're entitled to your pension. Each local sets its own requirements. For example, a carpenter in the New England Carpenters Union needs to work five years to be vested. If you have not reached the required number of years, you cannot receive your pension.
Spousal and Survivor Benefits
Carpenter pensions can be paid to spouses if the union member dies, either before or after retirement. In the Kansas City Carpenters Union, spouses automatically qualify for 50 percent of the member's benefit. Members and spouses can also elect a 75 percent or 100 percent payment upon death by accepting lower monthly benefit payments. Pensioners can also take a lump-sum payment of their pension instead of a monthly payment. The amount is determined by how much the pensioner would have received monthly, with any amount already collected subtracted from the payment. This payment can be paid to the spouse or another beneficiary.
How to Collect a Pension
Application procedures for pensions vary among Carpenter Union chapters. Most require members to complete a form and submit it by mail or online. The Southwest California chapter mails application packets to members and takes between 60 and 90 days to process requests. Applicants also need to send in copies of birth certificates, tax returns, and marriage or divorce certificates.