Mr. Senator – Are You Listening?

For the past couple of years, we’ve been reporting on Carol and the cruel reality that she faces as a result of her multiemployer plan getting benefit relief under MPRA. We told you that there are 1,000s of similar stories to what Carol is experiencing. We’ve also reported that Cheiron estimates that the multiemployer pension crisis gets worse by $750 million per month. As such, Carol’s story and that of Valerie, who I will tell you about shortly will be replicated over and over. It isn’t fair!

Through no fault of their own, plan participants in roughly 125 multiemployer plans that are designated as Critical and Declining are in jeopardy of seeing their monthly pension checked slashed. In some cases, these plans have been able to file for benefit relief before the insolvency has occurred, but that hasn’t rescued the promised benefits. For many others, transfer to the PBGC awaits as these plans are forecast to become insolvent within the next 15 or so years, and in some cases much sooner than that.

I ask why is our government sanctioning this action? Would my Senator or yours be sitting on their hands if their family member was being dealt this raw deal? Doubtful! I am picking on the Senate because the House of Representatives actually did something in July with the bi-partisan passage of H.R. 397. Unfortunately, the Butch Lewis Act, as it is known, has been sitting in the Senate since then without being brought up for a vote. We need for them to hear or read about the painful stories of those who were once promised, and who contributed to, a defined benefit pension that is being pulled from them.

Valerie’s story follows:

Valerie tells us ” March 1st, 2020 we lose $1000 (per month) from my husband’s pension. Local 641 NJ. We both know the Republicans are never going to fix the pensions. Did they help all the people who lost their homes and retirement in 2008? They only helped the banks and big businesses. Once again the average guys get screwed. I’m sick and tired of being held hostage by these people. I don’t care anymore…My husband and I have already lost. We now have to move out of state, away from my grandchildren and family. Away from the only place we’ve ever known. My husband’s had two strokes and heart surgery. I will live in a strange place with no friends or family and a sick husband. Talk about a nightmare. We will sit there alone until the end. ”

Horrible, yet Valerie isn’t unique regrettably. The fact that Congress was willing to step in following the GFC at >$800 billion, yet claim that they are protecting the taxpayer now (which by the way each of these plan participants is) rings hallow to me. These DB pension payments are the lifeblood for many American workers. They produce significant economic activity, generate tax revenue at the local and federal level, and keep families off the social safety net, yet we have politicians who are willing to let these plans crash and burn because of ideology – shameful.

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