WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bob Casey (D-PA), today said the 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 report, the PBGC’s deficit in its multiemployer pension insurance program is projected to grow by $17.1billion over the next decade. Notably, the PBGC reported that the only improvement it saw in this program was a direct result of Congress’ action last year, led by Democrats, to fix the United Mine Workers’ pension at the end of 2019. The report bolsters the need for Congressional action to provide financial security for the rest of the workers and retirees in the multiemployer pension system. The House of Representatives has acted twice in the last two years to protect retirees and address the long term financial security of the PBGC and multiemployer pension system. At the same time, while Democratic Senators have repeatedly called on the Senate to take action on this issue, Senate Republicans have refused to address the issue.
The pension crisis threatens the retirement of nearly 1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide and could put small businesses across the country in jeopardy. These 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.
“The news that the PBGC deficit jumped by $20 billion is alarming. The PBGC running out of money won’t just hurt workers, retirees, and small businesses – it will put our economy in a hole that we won’t be able to get out of. We need to fix this crisis now,” said Brown. “The House has passed a plan that would save taxpayers $40 billion and relieve retirees from uncertainty, anxiety and anguish. The Senate should act immediately to protect the pensions of retirees that played by the rules and earned their pensions. Ohio workers and retirees gave up raises at the negotiating table because they were counting on these pensions and benefits when they retired. It’s long past time Congress holds up its end of the bargain and ensures that these workers and their families receive the full benefits they earned over a lifetime of hard work.”
“Michiganders worked their entire lives and played by the rules – when they retire, they deserve the benefits that they were promised and have earned over their lifetime,” said Peters. “Especially during these challenging times, the Senate must act immediately to shore up our pension system and stand by the workers in Michigan and across this country who built our nation. Taking action will not only honor the sacred promise made to workers, but will also save taxpayer dollars in the long-run.”
“Americans who worked their entire careers in vital industries, such as grocery stores, trucking, and construction, were promised dignity in their retirement, and Congress needs to guarantee these workers the benefits they earned so they have a roof over their heads and the ability to go to the doctor. Rather than protect these workers, Republicans have shoveled billions in tax cuts to corporations and their donors. With some multiemployer pension plans in increasingly dire straits, it’s time to put workers first,” said Wyden.
“As our more Americans with pensions near retirement age, it is imperative that the money they earned will be available to them when they are ready to retire,” said Casey. “The newly released Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) report highlights the dire situation facing our nation’s pension insurance program. Congress must act now to help solve the pension crisis and ensure retired Americans get their fair share of benefits.”
“This is a crisis Congress can, and should, fix immediately—before it spirals out of control hurting our economy and workers, retirees, and families across the country,” said Senator Murray. “Democrats have put forward a plan that would not only shore up struggling pension plans, but leave the healthy ones intact, put the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation on stronger financial footing, support single employer plans, and—most importantly—not cut the benefits people were promised. There is no excuse for inaction and no time to delay. Republicans need to come to the table to work with us on this before millions of retirees lose the financial security they earned in the middle of a pandemic.”
Numerous pension plans, including the Central States Pension Plan, the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan, and more remain at risk of failure. Several other plans have already had to cut benefits. If nothing is done to help the plans, they will fail, the PBGC’s insurance program for these plans will follow, and retirees will face massive cuts to the benefits they earned over decades of work.
There are several causes for this crisis, including the fact that the economic collapse of 2008 devastated these plans and the people who depend on them. These retirees and workers who have done everything right did not cause this crisis, and Congress must not turn its back on them.