Multi-employer pension rally draws thousands to Ohio Statehouse

Cleveland Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- About 5,000 people rallied outside the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday to urge Congress to aid more than 200 multi-employer pension plans at risk of failing.

They came from as far as Utah. They carried signs and sang union songs. And they shouted their message over and over again: Fix it.

The pension funds cover more than 1.3 million retirees nationwide and more than 60,000 in Ohio, including truck drivers, bakers, musicians, miners and flight attendants. If the funds' obligations exceed their assets, pensioners' benefits will be slashed. Taxpayers could be on the hook if they fail because the plans are backed by the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.

The rally, thought to be the largest here since a 2011 protest to protect public collective bargaining power, was planned ahead of a Friday congressional hearing to be held at the Statehouse.

Ohio's Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown chairs the House and Senate Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans; Republican Sen. Rob Portman is also on the panel. The committee has 16 members: four senators from each party and four representatives from each party.

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