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Karen Friedman's speech to the Protect Our Pensions Rally (April 14, 2016)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I’m so glad to be here with thousands of you at the Protect Our Pensions Rally!

First, I want to especially thank Mike Walden and Bob Amsden and all the leaders of the pension committees throughout the country who made this event happen. You are doing a GREAT job.

I’m also honored to share the stage with so many distinguished members of Congress, and leaders of the Teamsters, Machinists and Farmers’ unions.

As many of you know, I am Karen Friedman, the Executive Vice President and Policy Director of the Pension Rights Center, a national consumer organization that has been working since 1976 to protect the retirement security of American workers, retirees, and their families.

The Pension Rights Center has been fighting with you, side-by-side, since the beginning of this battle to repeal the terrible and unfair cuts that were thrust on you by the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA).

In the 40 years of the Pension Rights Center’s existence, MPRA is, by far, the worst piece of legislation we have ever seen.

We are here today to stand with you to urge Congress to repeal the pension cuts allowed by MPRA and, most immediately, to urge the Treasury Department to REJECT the Central States Pension Plan’s application to cut your pensions by 40 to 70 percent, which would be devastating for you, and your families, and your communities.

Let me tell you, the Treasury Department has good reason to REJECT the Central States application because it flunks every condition required under the law. The application unfairly distributes benefit cuts, and most important, the cuts won’t save the plan.

The Treasury Department should JUST SAY NO.

If the Treasury Department lets the Central States Pension Fund cut your pensions, it will spark a national crisis that will not only devastate hundreds of thousands of retired Teamsters, spouses and widows. This could potentially spark dozens of other multiemployer plans to cut retiree pension benefits – affecting, over time, more than a million people.

Don’t buy the argument that unless retirees’ benefits are cut, the pension plan will fail, bringing down the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the government agency that insures private pensions.

We can find other solutions. When Detroit went into bankruptcy, they originally proposed slashing retirees’ pensions in that city by 34 percent. But there was such a national outcry that other solutions were found. Let me repeat: Other solutions were found.

Your elected officials can do the same thing for you. Senator Sanders and Representative Kaptur introduced the Keep Our Pension Promises Act, which comprehensively addresses the problem.

Senator Rob Portman introduced the Pension Accountability Act, which improves the flawed voting process that is allowed under MPRA.

Now, let’s combine forces and find a bipartisan solution that fixes the problem of underfunded multiemployer plans and the PBGC – and protects the pension promises of retirees.

Everyone here has worked hard and done everything right. You all embody the American dream and you deserve to be protected. America is still the richest and most inventive country in the world and we can find the right solution.

The Pension Rights Center will stand with you, and we will all keep fighting till we win.

Thanks!

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