WASHINGTON, D.C. – In Case You Missed It, a Toledo Blade editorial today applauded efforts by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to save pensions for Ohio retirees and workers in the COVID rescue package currently being considered by the Senate. Brown’s latest push is part of his years-long fight alongside Ohio retirees, workers and small businesses to save multiemployer pension plans. The failure of these plans would have drastic consequences for the country’s economy, especially amid the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brown is working to include a version of his Butch Lewis Act in the COVID-19 rescue package currently coming together in Congress. Brown named the legislation in memory of Butch Lewis, the former retired head of Teamsters Local 100 in southwest Ohio.
“The pension funds that were supposed to be there for retired workers are in jeopardy. Congress cannot let these workers who depended on the benefits they were promised be left in the lurch. Now is the time to step up and secure the pension funds and the federal program designed to protect them,” writes the Blade editorial board.
Toledo Blade Editorial Board
March 3, 2021
The latest coronavirus relief package in Congress may do more than help support Americans suffering through the pandemic -- it may finally throw a lifeline to faltering the multiemployer pension funds upon which millions of American workers and retirees rely.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D, Ohio) aims to get the nuts and bolts of the Butch Lewis Act into the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act bill making its way through Congress.
Sen. Brown has tried in recent years to get a stand-alone version of the bill, named for the late retired head of the Teamsters Local 100 from West Chester, Ohio, through Congress. Mr. Brown hopes that attaching it to the Biden administration’s stimulus package may at last get key provisions into law that can shore up the pension plans on which more than a million retirees depend.
These retirees are in jeopardy of losing their benefits through no fault of their own, but because various trucking, construction, and other small companies that hired workers and offered pension benefits have since gone out of business without fully funding their pension liabilities. The money that should be available for the pensions these workers were promised is expected to run out within a few years, leaving tens of thousands of beneficiaries in Ohio alone in the lurch.
The largest of the failing multiemployer pensions is the Central States Pension Fund, primarily established for retiring Teamsters. That fund is barreling toward insolvency by 2025.
In Ohio alone, there are 42,643 beneficiaries from the Central States Pension receiving $363 million in annual pension benefits.
To save their pensions, albeit at a reduced amount, will require Congress to use taxpayer money to fund the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which in turn will use the money to write the monthly pension checks.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. was created to step in for retirees when private pensions fail. Its directive is to provide a maximum pension payment of $12,870 a year to a worker with 30 years of service. That’s a cut of more than 50 percent for some pensioners, but it is at least something.
The pension funds that were supposed to be there for retired workers are in jeopardy. Congress cannot let these workers who depended on the benefits they were promised be left in the lurch. Now is the time to step up and secure the pension funds and the federal program designed to protect them.