WASHINGTON, DC – During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on multiemployer pension plans, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and West Chester resident Rita Lewis spoke out against proposed cuts to the Central States Pensions that could impact more than 47,000 Ohioans.
Mrs. Lewis testified at the hearing today to honor her late husband, Butch Lewis. Mr. Lewis worked as a trucker for 40 years and led the Southwest Retirees Pension Committee’s fight against the cuts authorized under Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA). He passed away on New Year’s Eve of 2015 due to a stroke, which doctors have attributed, in part, to the stress he faced because of the proposed cuts. Rita’s widow benefits have already been cut and she faces an additional 40 percent reduction because of the proposed benefit cuts put forth by Central States.
“Rita’s husband, Butch, was a legend to Ohio Teamsters and was always fighting for our state, his family, and families like his all across Ohio,” said Brown. “Butch said the cuts being forced on retirees amount to a war against the middle class and the American dream. We must honor Butch by finding a bipartisan solution to protect Rita’s benefits and the pensions of more than 47,000 Ohioans.”
Under MPRA – legislation that Brown voted against – multiemployer pension trustees, like Central States, are now able to propose massive cuts to the earned benefits of participants and retirees if the plans are in “critical and declining” status. Pension trustees for plans in “critical and declining” status may submit an application for proposed benefit cuts to the Treasury. After the Treasury, the Department of Labor, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) approve the proposed cuts, participants vote to implement the cuts or block them. Brown wrote to the Treasury Department in February asking it to reject the proposed. Brown is a cosponsor of the Keep Our Pension Promise Act of 2015 to repeal the benefits suspension provisions of the MPRA.