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Speech by Karen Friedman at the "Stop the Clock on Pension Cuts" Press Conference (September 10, 2015)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My name is Karen Friedman. I’m the Executive Vice President of the Pension Rights Center, a national consumer organization that has been working since 1976 to protect retirement security of American workers, retirees, and their families. 

Thank you Senator Sanders, Congresswoman Kaptur, and co-sponsors for introducing the Keep Our Pension Promises Act of 2015 (KOPPA). 

This critical legislation will stop the clock on unprecedented retiree benefit cuts authorized under the ill-conceived Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA). We’re honored to be fighting beside the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Association of Machinists.

All you have to do is look around at the hundreds of retirees and their family members who travelled to Washington today to protest the cuts, and the importance of this issue is clear. 

These cuts are a ticking time bomb  about to blow up the pensions of these older Americans who have worked for decades to earn a secure retirement. These retirees have worked all of their lives to achieve the American dream. Now they are faced with unprecedented and unfair cuts to the pensions that they have earned.

And believe me, the retirees here represent only a fraction of those affected. Hundreds of thousands of retired food workers, bricklayers, pipefitters and other retirees are also in danger of losing up to 60 percent of their pensions. Most of them just don’t know it yet

Many of today’s retirees testified earlier today before the Treasury Department to plead with the government agency to protect them. But the Treasury Department can only interpret how the law should be implemented. Congress authorized these cuts in a last-minute backroom deal at the end of 2014. And only Congress has the power – and the moral responsibility – to stop the clock on these cuts before they cause devastating hardship for retirees and their families.

In our 40 years of existence, the Pension Rights Center has never seen such a travesty. In a matter of hours, MPRA wiped out 40 years of precedent, set by the federal pension law that states explicitly that, once a retiree has earned a pension, it can never be cut unless the plan runs out of money. But this law will now allow trustees, who have no allegiance to retirees, to be able to cut retirees benefits today – 10 to 20 years before a plan is even projected to run out of money. 

This isn’t just unfair – it is outrageous and undemocratic. However, there is a solution: the Keep Our Pension Promises Act not only restores protections against pension cuts, it also solves the problem of underfunded multiemployer plans.

On behalf of millions of retirees across America, we plead with Congress to stop the clock. Pass KOPPA. Thank you.

Related:

  • Our press release for the "Stop the Clock on Pension Cuts" press conference
  • Our summary of the retiree pension cutback provisions in the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014

  • Our multiemployer pension benefit cutback calculator (under the pension cutback provisions, this applies only to retirees under the age of 75)
  • list of multiemployer pension plans in "critical and declining" status
  • Our fact sheet on multiemployer plan funding in general (May 29, 2014)
  • Our summary of the Keep Our Pension Promises Act of 2015 

  • Our fact sheet on why the Keep Our Pension Promises Act should be passed

  • An explanation of the two tax loopholes that would be closed by KOPPA

  • An explanation of how KOPPA would help the Central States Teamsters Pension Fund 

  • Our story bank of statements from people who are worried about cuts to their pensions

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