WASHINGTON, DC – Former Members of the Select Pensions Committee, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) along with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) led 27 Senators in reintroducing the Butch Lewis Act in the Senate today as the House of Representatives is expected to pass the bill this afternoon. Named for a retired Ohio Teamster, the Butch Lewis Act would address the pension crisis threatening the retirement of more than 1.3 million workers and retirees nationwide and putting small businesses across the country in jeopardy.
The Senators, who spent months working with both sides as members of the Select Pensions Committee last year, reiterated their commitment to solving this crisis.
“We must solve this crisis for the workers, retirees and small businesses who are counting on us, and the Butch Lewis Act is one way to do that,” said Brown. “I am committed to continuing to work with Senator Portman to find a bipartisan solution that can pass the Senate. The most important thing is that we get the job done for these workers who have worked so hard for this country.”
“There are 22,000 Central States retirees in Minnesota, and thousands more Minnesotans in other underfunded pension plans. These workers put in a lifetime of hard work, and deserve to know that their hard-earned pensions are safe and secure,” said Sen. Smith. “This bill would provide a much-needed resolution to the crisis facing the multiemployer pension system and certainty to retirees living in retirement limbo.”
“I firmly believe that no one should be denied their pension because their employer goes bankrupt. Hardworking men and women across this country go to work every day for years, paying into these pension plans each paycheck with the expectation, that one day they can retire and continue to provide for their families. They gave up raises and bonuses during their working years for the promise of peace of mind in their golden years, but here they are, finally ready to collect, and there’s no one home. Sadly, in West Virginia, we are far too familiar with coal companies breaking their promises and leaving their workers out to dry,” said Senator Manchin. “I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this legislation to make sure that workers’ pensions are protected, and I encourage Senator McConnell follow the House’s lead and put this bill up for a vote.”
“Millions of middle-class workers, miners, truck drivers, construction workers, and food service workers invested their hard earned money into pension plans year after year after year, for financial security and peace of mind when they retire,” said Leader Schumer. “Unfortunately, those pensions are now in trouble. We owe it to these workers, who played by the rules and are counting on these funds, to shore up these pensions today. The Butch Lewis Act, led by Senator Brown, is essential to address the multiemployer pension crisis that could shatter the financial futures of millions of middle-class American families. Democrats are fighting for a solution to deliver on the promise of these pensions for workers.”
Along with Senators Brown, Tina Smith (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY), cosponsors of the bill include: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker(D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Gary Peters (MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The Butch Lewis Act would: Create a loan program to allow failing pensions plans to borrow the money they need to put plans back on solid ground and ensure they can meet their commitments to retirees and workers for decades to come. By putting the plans back on solid footing, the bill would also protect small businesses from the threat of closing their doors if plans are allowed to fail. The bill would solve the pension crisis without cutting benefits retirees have earned, and it would put safeguards in place to encourage pensions to remain strong so they can be there for today’s workers when they retire.
Butch Lewis was: a Vietnam War veteran who returned home and worked for 40 years as a trucker and Teamster. He was the retired head of Teamsters Local 100 in Evendale, Ohio. Butch led the fight to preserve his fellow Teamsters’ pensions, and passed away due to a stroke on New Year’s Eve in 2015. Doctors attributed his stroke, at least in part, to the stress he faced fighting the proposed pension cuts. His wife Rita Lewis, with whom he was set to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary before he died, has continued her late husband’s fight for the retirement security these workers earned over a lifetime of hard work. Brown has worked closely with Rita, and brought her as his guest to the State of the Union this year.