Brown, Portman Introduce the Pension Accountability Act to Provide Ohio Retirees a Fair Vote on Pension Cuts

Senators Reiterate their Commitment to Bipartisan Comprehensive Multiemployer Pension Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the Pension Accountability Act (S. 833) to help protect Ohioans from having their hard-earned pensions cut with no say in the process. The bill aims to give workers and retirees a seat at the table when a looming multiemployer pension bankruptcy may require major pension cuts.

The Senators both opposed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA), enacted in 2014, and are working together to replace it with a comprehensive, bipartisan solution. Unfortunately, MPRA did virtually nothing to prevent the pending insolvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which is projected to become insolvent in 2025. PBGC Director Tom Reeder recently testified that the PBGC’s net deficit in 2026 would be only one percent smaller if eligible plans could not use MPRA to reduce benefits.

The Pension Accountability Act is a targeted, technical fix to amend the voting procedures under the MPRA to help Ohio workers who are being shut out of the reform process.  Under the law, severely underfunded multiemployer pension plans within 20 years of insolvency may apply to cut pension benefits if the MPRA cuts would have more than a 50 percent chance of preventing plan insolvency, among other requirements. Earlier this year, both the Southwest Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Plan and the Toledo Roofers Local No. 134 Pension Plan were deemed to satisfy the requirements for MPRA, and began the voting process by mailing ballots to plan participants. Over 5,000 Ohio carpenters are in the Southwest Carpenters Plan, and retirees could experience pension cuts as much as 70 percent by April 1st.

“What Washington doesn’t understand is that workers sat at the negotiating table and gave up raises because they were counting on these pensions when they retired,” said Senator Brown. “It’s common sense that these workers should also have a seat at the table when negotiating the future of the pensions they fought so hard for. I’m glad to join Sen. Portman to introduce this legislation and to continue working together to find a comprehensive fix to the pension crisis threatening millions of workers and families across the country.”

“I am pleased to reintroduce the Pension Accountability Act, and I appreciate Senator Brown joining me on this common-sense fix to the MRPA voting process as we work toward a broader solution,” Senator Portman stated. “Ohio workers have worked hard for years, played by the rules, and paid into their pensions for decades. As a matter of basic fairness, they deserve a role in determining how to bring these pensions to solvency, and this bill ensures they have a voice in this process.”

“I applaud Senators Portman and Brown for standing up for retired Southwest Ohio carpenters,” said Steven Sprague, a 46-year member of the Southwest Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Plan. “Many retirees including myself will likely take pension cuts of over 50 percent under current law by April 1st, and the bipartisan consensus in Congress that we should NOT have a rigged vote in favor of these cuts, is encouraging.”

“The Pension Accountability Act is good policy because it gives those of us in plans reducing benefits under MPRA a meaningful vote on what will happen to the pensions we earned,” said Mike Walden, Chairman of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions. “NUCPP is pleased that Senators Portman and Brown are also not giving up on bipartisan comprehensive reform this year to reach a resolution to the looming and spreading pension crisis. With over 60,000 pensions at risk in our state, it is appropriate for Ohio’s senators to take the lead, and for the Senate as a whole to support their bipartisan work.”

Karen Friedman, Director of Pension Rights Center, said:  “I applaud Senators Portman and Brown for introducing this commonsense technical fix to the unfair and undemocratic voting process in MPRA and for making a commitment to work together to develop a broader, comprehensive solution to address the multiemployer crisis that will protect retirees and workers, as well as plans, employers, and the federal pension insurance agency.”

NOTE: The Pension Accountability Act has no taxpayer cost. The bill amends the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act in two ways:

  • First, for struggling pension plans seeking cuts, it will make the participant vote binding in all situations. This will give the workers and retirees a seat at the table to influence the proposed solvency reforms. Their majority vote will be required for any pension cuts to occur.
  • Second, it will make this vote fair by counting only the ballots that are returned. Unreturned ballots will no longer be counted as a “yes” vote.

Brown and Portman served on the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans last year. Following the expiration of the Joint Select Committee, both Senators have continued working together to find a solution to the pension crisis threatening 1.3 million Americans, 60,000 Ohioans, and thousands of small businesses around the country. Portman currently chairs the Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, and Brown serves as the Ranking Member.

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