Washington – On December 16, President Obama signed the 2015 Omnibus spending bill. The new law contains provisions that allow certain underfunded multiemployer pension plans to cut retirees’ benefits. The Pension Rights Center released the following statement from Executive Vice President Karen Friedman:
“For decades, the federal pension law has ensured that retirees are given the highest level of protection. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, states that pension benefits in multiemployer plans should be cut only when a plan runs out of money – and even then, the benefits of retirees should be the last to be cut.
“It is a cruel irony that, in the 40th anniversary year of ERISA, Congress has scrapped these protections, allowing retirees’ pensions to be cut decades before a plan might become insolvent.
“We are furious that without debate Congress has placed the burden of rescuing underfunded plans on the people who can least afford it — retirees and surviving spouses who rely on their pensions for food, medication, and other necessities.
“There were no hearings on the retiree cutback legislation. At the 11th hour, in a sleight-of-hand maneuver, it was added as an amendment to the Omnibus bill in the House Rules Committee at the 11th hour. Representatives and Senators could not vote against the provisions without risking a shutdown of the federal government.
“Members of Congress and retirees should have been given the time necessary to examine this legislation, engage in an open and fair debate, and develop alternatives to shore up multiemployer plans. Given that these plans are not expected to become insolvent for a decade or more, there was ample time for input.
“Congress should be ashamed. The Pension Rights Center will be working with retirees around the country to repeal this terrible measure.”
Read an updated and expanded summary of the pension-cut provisions in the 2015 Omnibus spending law.
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