Joined By Retirees, Congressional Democrats Call for Passage of Proposal to Ensure 1.5 Million Retired Workers Across Country Keep Their Earned Pensions

December 13, 2017

Without Congressional Action, The Retirement Benefits Of 1.5 Million Pension Plan Participants Across The Country Could Be At Risk  

Washington, DC – Joined by retired Teamsters and miners today, Congressional Democrats called for immediate passage of their legislation to ensure the pensions that American workers have earned over a lifetime of work are protected into the future. The legislation would ensure Teamsters, miners, and thousands of other American workers can keep the retirement they have earned so their families and livelihoods are not put at risk. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have consistently listed pensions as a top Democratic priority in spending legislation, and today Teamsters President Jim Hoffa joined Senate and House Democrats to call for its passage.

“This is the only legislative solution that would keep intact the pensions that our actives and retirees have earned – there would be no cuts,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “That is why our active and retired members have been meeting with members of Congress over the past year to fight for their retirement security and they will continue to do so until this legislation becomes law.”

Pension plans – including the massive Central States Teamsters Pension Plan, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, and over 200 more plans impacting 1.5 million active and retired workers in every state in the country – are on the brink of failure and threatened by massive cuts.

If pension plans are allowed to fail, not only will employers no longer be able to pay promised benefits, but taxpayers would be at risk of having to pay billions when the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), the government sponsored insurance company for multiemployer pensions, has an exposure of $59 billion and is projected to become insolvent by 2025. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of backstopping the PBGC, should it fail, would be $101 billion dollars over 20 years. The Democrats therefore said these workers, retirees, families and communities are at risk through no fault of their own and must be protected.

The Butch Lewis Act of 2017 would put the pension plans back on solid footing, ensure they can meet their obligations to current retirees and workers for decades to come without cutting the benefits retirees earned, and safeguard them for the future. The Democrats’ legislation would allow the Treasury Department to loan money, leveraged by safe investments, to pension plans to ensure that retirees and their families are guaranteed their promised benefits. A detailed explanation of the Butch Lewis Act of 2017 is available HERE.

The legislation was introduced by Brown in the Senate and is cosponsored by Sens. Stabenow (D-MI), Baldwin (D-WI), Donnelly (D-IN), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Franken (D-MN), Heitkamp (D-ND), Klobuchar (D-MN), Manchin (D-WV), McCaskill (D-MO), Nelson (D-FL), Peters (D-MI). The legislation was introduced by Reps. Richard Neal (D-MA) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL) in the House and has over 80 cosponsors, including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “As miners, truck drivers, construction workers, and food service workers approach retirement age, we have to make sure the pension plans promised to them have enough in the bank to fulfill that promise. One of the main things we Democrats have been pushing for - and will continue to push for - in the bipartisan budget negotiations is to help these workers out. Democrats are fighting for a pension solution.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “Defending every American’s right to a secure retirement is an urgent moral priority. The Congress must deliver on our promises and protect working families’ economic security now.  There is no time to waste, and Democrats will not rest until we have saved America’s endangered pensions.”

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said, “These retirees sacrificed pay raises and benefits so that when they retired, they could do so with dignity. They earned every dollar of their retirement, and out of no fault of their own, the money they earned is at risk. They held up their end of the bargain and it’s time Congress held up ours and ensure they can keep what they’ve earned.” 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said, “In America if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to retire with grace and dignity. However, for many hardworking Americans that basic promise has been broken as a result of hard-earned pensions in distress.  That is not acceptable, which is why Congress must pass the Butch Lewis Act of 2017 immediately."

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said, “The Butch Lewis Act is a win-win--for employers, employees, retirees, and Americans across the country. It would put the pension plans back on solid footing and ensure that the plans can meet their obligations to retirees and workers for decades to come. No more stalling. No more false promises. We need to act now.”

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) said, “Make no mistake about it. We will not rest until every single worker is assured of receiving every single hard-earned penny, dime and dollar of their pensions that they have earned, contributed to, and were promised.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said, “A pension is a promise. People who worked hard to earn their retirement benefits should not have to worry about heating their homes, putting food on their tables, or being able to retire with dignity.  This legislation will do right by thousands of retirees in Michigan by providing opportunities to put pension plans back on solid footing.”

Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) said, “These Americans earned their pensions through a lifetime of hard work. Now we need to help keep the promises we made so they can retire with dignity. I’m an electrician by trade and spent years installing and restoring power for New Jersey homes, businesses and industrial sites. As a participant in a pension plan myself, I know how these workers feel. Through no fault of their own, their livelihoods are at risk. We must act now on solutions that honor their work and grow membership so future generations of Americans can have the peace of mind of a secure retirement.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) said, “The multiemployer pension system remains in significant financial distress, threatening the retirement security of millions of Americans. The Butch Lewis Act of 2017 proposes a solution to prevent troubled multiemployer plans from failing and, most importantly, does not cut retirees’ hard-earned pensions.  Congress must work together in a bipartisan way to responsibly address the multiemployer pension crisis, and we must do so this year.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI): “Hardworking men and women in my district and across the country were made a promise when they started working – that they would get to retire with a pension that allows them to live with dignity and security. Now, the pensions they’ve earned over a lifetime of hard work are under attack and in jeopardy of being cut by as much as 70 percent. We cannot allow this to happen. The Butch Lewis Act ensures workers and retirees can keep the retirement they have earned, and must be passed by Congress immediately.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur said (D-OH), “On Sunday, the Central States Pension Fund lost 1,800 active workers with Kroger’s announcement to withdraw, leaving more uncertainty for the nearly 400,000 workers and retirees the Fund supports. Congress can ensure stable retirement benefits for all these individuals simply by passing the Butch Lewis Act. Congress must act soon and deliver peace of mind and economic security this holiday season to the 1.5 million workers and retirees in multiemployer pension plans.”