Failure to Address Crisis Abandons American Workers, Retirees and Small Businesses
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 3, 2021 – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today took to the Senate floor to highlight the need 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.
- A Toledo Blade editorial today applauded efforts by Brown to save pensions for Ohio retirees and workers in the COVID rescue package.
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.
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery can be found below:
This week, we have an opportunity to finally deliver for millions of retirees and workers and small businesses, by saving America’s pensions.
The multi-employer pensions system is on the verge of collapse, threatening the livelihoods of more than a million Americans and tens of thousands of small businesses.
This affects more than 100,000 workers and retirees in my state and millions more around the country.
These pension plans were in danger before. Now the economic emergency we’re in has accelerated the crisis even further.
Multiemployer pension plans receive contributions based on the hours worked.
As workers have been laid off during the pandemic, their employers no longer contribute to the pension plans, while current retirees continue receiving their earned benefits – making the plans even more likely to fail.
And if that happens, it won’t just be retirees who will feel the pain.
Current workers will be stuck paying into pensions funds for benefits they’ll never receive. Small businesses will be left drowning in pension liability they can’t afford to pay.
Small businesses that have been in the family for generations could face bankruptcy. Workers will lose jobs at businesses forced to close up shop.
And the effect will ripple across the entire economy, at a time when we can least afford it.
The Chamber of Commerce has said, “The multiemployer pension system is an integral part of the U.S. economy.”
It’s not only union businesses that participate in these plans that will close their doors – this will devastate small communities across the industrial heartland.
Small businesses in these communities are already hurting because of this virus.
We have to get this done.
After a lifetime of hard work and service to our country, these workers and retirees have already waited far too long for Congress to do its job.
We have been trying to solve this for them for years.
Unions, the Chamber of Commerce, small businesses – pretty much everyone agrees we need to get this done.
The House has done its part – they’ve passed a solution multiple times now. But until now, Mitch McConnell has deliberately blocked it.
Now, he’s finally out of the way, and we can finally keep the promise to these workers and their families.
They spent years working on assembly lines, bagging groceries, driving trucks, working hard to keep our economy going.
And money came out of every single one of their paychecks to earn these pensions.
People in this town don’t understand the collective bargaining process – people give up dollars today for the promise of a secure retirement, with good health care and a pension.
And for years now they have been living in fear of drastic cuts.
One retiree from Michigan told us he would lose two-thirds of his income, and that, “at 71 years old, there’s no jobs out there that we could get to recover what we’d lose.”
He said, “pass the Butch Lewis Act so that we can take this weight off of us, and retire with the dignity that we earned for 30, 40, 50 years of hard working labor.”
It’s always the same story. When Wall Street was in trouble, they got a bailout.
When corporations need something or the stock market is in trouble, the Washington elite drop everything to help.
But these workers aren’t asking for a bailout or a handout. They’re just asking for what they earned.
These workers have been in this fight for years. Their activism has gotten us this far.
They’ve traveled all day and all night on buses, they’ve rallied outside in the bitter cold and in the hot D.C. summer – all trying to get people in Washington to listen.
Let’s finally deliver for them. Let’s give them peace of mind. Let’s keep the promise.
It comes back to the dignity of work – when work has dignity, we honor the retirement security people earned.
I urge my Republican colleagues in this body – colleagues with health care and retirement plans paid for by taxpayers – to think about these retired workers and small business owners, and the stress they’re facing.
I’ve listened to your speeches for years, extolling the value of hard work and the virtues of small businesses.
This is your chance to live up to your own words – to show Americans that if you work hard all your life, your government will be there for you.
Join us, and let’s pass a solution that honors the dignity of work.