WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call as he and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) bring a field hearing of the House and Senate Joint Select Committee on Pensions to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Friday, July 13. Brown serves as committee Co-Chair.
The bipartisan, bicameral Committee has been tasked with finding a solution to the pension crisis immediately threatening 1.3 million Americans and thousands of small businesses around the country. This is the fifth public meeting the Committee has held.
“This Friday, we’re bringing members of the committee to Ohio, for a field hearing in Columbus to hear the voices and the stories of the Ohioans who have the most to lose if Congress fails to act,” said Brown. “These folks sat at the negotiating table. They sacrificed for these pensions. They planned their retirements counting on these pensions. These Americans don’t want a bailout or a handout – they’re just asking for what they earned.”
The hearing, “Understanding What’s at Stake for Current Workers and Retirees,” will allow members of the Committee to hear directly from current workers and retirees who will be affected by the pension crisis if nothing is done. Brown secured the creation of a bipartisan House and Senate Joint Select Committee on Pensions as part of the overall budget compromise that passed earlier this year.
Numerous Ohio pension plans, including the massive Central States Teamsters Pension Plan, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan and the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan are currently on the brink of failure. The Ironworkers Local 17 plan has already had to cut benefits. If nothing is done to the plans, they will fail and retirees will face massive cuts to the benefits they earned over decades of work.
Brown has been fighting for a solution to the pension crisis for years and introduced the Butch Lewis Act, named for a retired Ohio Teamster from West Chester, who passed away while fighting against cuts to the retirement he and his fellow workers earned.
Brown was joined on the call by Mike Walden, Ohio retiree of Teamsters Local 24, Vietnam veteran, and President of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions. Walden will testify before the committee on Friday.
“As the special Joint Select Committee on pensions holds a field hearing outside of Washington, D.C., Ohio was a wise choice for many reasons. One, it is the most affected state in the country, economically and by population. Two, in addition to having 50-60,000 Teamster participants in the Central States Pension Fund alone, there are hundreds of thousands of participants in other union affiliations, in multiemployer pension funds, in Ohio, that will be affected as well, some of which have already had their pensions reduced and lives changed,” said Walden.
If the plans are allowed to fail, not only will they no longer be able to pay promised benefits, but taxpayers would be at risk of having to pay billions because the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) would be on the hook for billions of dollars it cannot pay. PBGC is the arm of the federal government that insures pension plans.
MORE ABOUT THE COMMITTEE FIELD HEARING:
- Ms. Roberta Dell, Chief Union Steward, Spangler Candy Company, Bryan, OH
- Mr. David A. Gardner, Chief Executive Officer, Alfred Nickles Bakery Inc., Navarre, OH
- Mr. Bill Martin, President, Spangler Candy Company, Bryan, OH
- Mr. Brian Slone, Apprentice Instructor, Millwright Local 1090, Dayton, OH
- Mr. Mike Walden, President, National United Committee to Protect Pensions, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
- Mr. Larry Ward, Retired Coal Miner and Former President of United Mine Workers of America, District 6, Hopedale, OH
DETAILS ON THE JOINT-SELECT COMMITTEE TO SOLVE THE PENSIONS CRISIS:
- The Committee is made up of 16 members appointed by House and Senate leaders. The members include eight Senators and eight House members, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.
- The Committee has instructions to report a bill to solve the pension crisis by the final week of November.
- If at least five members from each party agree on a compromise, the solution the Committee produces will be guaranteed an expedited vote on the Senate floor with no amendments.
- The Committee is required to hold at least five public meetings.