This is a critical time for retirement security. Thousands of retirees and workers in certain severely underfunded multiemployer plans – Cleveland Iron Workers Local 17, New York State Teamsters, Baltimore Ironworkers Local 16, and Teamsters Local 707 in New York, among them – have already lost a big share of their hard-earned pensions. More than a million more could also lose benefits if their pension plans apply to cut benefits under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA). There are currently as many as 130 plans that are eligible to apply to cut their retirees’ benefits
There is an urgent need for congressional action to develop a common sense, comprehensive solution to save underfunded pension plans, protect the benefits of workers and retirees, and also to put the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federal agency that insures these pension plans, on a path to solvency. If nothing is done, it is estimated that the PBGC will run out of money for its multiemployer insurance program in about six years.
To address this issue, last year leaders of both parties created the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans. This bipartisan, bicameral committee, chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch (a Republican from Utah who has since retired) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), was charged with developing consensus legislative language to solve the crisis of underfunded multiemployer plans by November 30, 2018. The Joint Select Committee held five hearings and worked on a bipartisan basis to try to develop a compromise proposal. Although they worked hard to develop a draft proposal, ultimately, they could not reach consensus.
While the Joint Select Committee did not succeed in its mission to develop a solution, the work of the JSC did succeed in educating many members of Congress about this critical issue and created momentum to get a solution done as fast as possible. To that end, in January 2019, Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, reintroduced the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act (H.R. 397), better known as the Butch Lewis Act. This bill would provide loans to underfunded multiemployer pension plans to enable them to fully protect the earned benefits of retirees, while saving the plans in the long-term. The bill was passed by a vote of 264-169 in the House of Representatives in July 2019, and has been reintroduced in the Senate.
If your pension has been cut, or could be cut, it is very important that you contact your Representative in Congress and urge him or her to support the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act (H.R. 397). Also, that you ask your Senators to support a bill to address the multiemployer crisis.
Here are some resources you may find helpful: