Brown Takes to Senate Floor Urging Colleagues to Act to Save Pensions of Thousands of Miners

Pensions Floor Speech

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to take swift action on behalf of more than 86,000 miners who are living under the threat of massive pension cuts. 

Earlier this week, Sen. Brown (D-OH) said a newly released Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) report underscores why it’s critical that Congress act to solve the multiemployer pension crisis. According to the PBGC report, the agency hit a record deficit of $65.2 billion, compared to $53.9 billion last year. This $11.3 billion loss shows that this crisis gets more difficult and expensive to solve the longer Congress waits. The PBGC is the arm of the federal government that insures pension plans, and the Multiemployer Program is highly likely to become insolvent by 2025 at the latest.

The pension crisis threatens the retirement of more than 1-1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide and could put small businesses across the country in jeopardy. These miners, truck drivers, carpenters, bakers and others worked hard all their lives and gave up raises at the bargaining table in order to put that money toward retirement for themselves and their families. Now that retirement is at risk.

Brown’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below. Production quality video can be downloaded here.

Thank you to Senator Manchin and all of my colleagues for coming to the Floor earlier today to remind this body that we need to act now on behalf of more than 86,000 miners who are living under the threat of massive cuts to the pensions they earned.

And 1,200 miners and their families could lose their healthcare by the end of the year, because of the Westmoreland and Murray bankruptcies. That leaves us barely a month.

The bankruptcy court could allow these corporations to “shed their liabilities” – which is a fancy way of saying, walk away from paying miners the benefits they earned.

Two years ago we worked to save thousands of miners’ health care, and we have to do it again – we can’t leave some workers behind, to lose their health care over the holidays, just because of the date their companies filed for bankruptcy.

AND we have to make sure they don’t lose their retirement security on top of that.

All 86,000 UMWA miners are facing crippling pension cuts – and they aren’t alone.

The retirement security of hundreds of thousands of Teamsters and Ironworkers and Carpenters and so many other retirees and workers is also at risk.

The crisis facing their pensions is real, it’s immediate, and it could have ripple effects all across this country.

This week the PBGC released a new report showing it could run out of money even sooner. If the multiemployer system collapses, if the PBGC fails, we are looking at recession.

Small businesses that have been in the family for generations could face bankruptcy. Workers will lose jobs at businesses forced to close up shop. Retirees will face crippling cuts to their income.

Congress gave Wall Street a bailout after they wrecked people’s lives. But these mineworkers did everything right. Is Congress really going to abandon them?

This is about our values – it’s about whose side we’re on.

I’m committed to these miners and all the workers, retirees and small businesses – we aren’t giving up. We are continuing to work for a bipartisan solution.

It comes back to the dignity of work – when work has dignity, we honor the retirement security people earned. 

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