House Passes the Butch-Lewis Act to Protect Pensions, Now It’s Up to the Senate

Take Action: Call the Congressional switchboard, (202) 224-3121,  to speak to  U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey and tell them to VOTE YES on the Butch-Lewis Act H.R. 397, protecting workers’ pensions. Then, while you have them on the phone, tell them to support Senate Bill 27, the American Miners’ Pension Act.

On July 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act”—also known as the “Butch Lewis Act”— establishing a federal loan program for multiemployer pension plans that are heading towards insolvency.  The victory is a first-step towards enacting an important federal rescue program for over one million union workers and retirees whose multiemployer pensions are at risk—through no fault of their own.

The hard-working and taxpaying American workers whose retirement income security is threatened are no less worthy than the financial services firms who benefited from a $700 billion rescue program in 2008.  Ask your Senator to support H.R. 397, please tell your Senator that H.R. 397 is an important bill to protect working families’ retirement security.  

In a letter sent to Congress, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) stated, “an estimated 10 million workers and retirees are in about 1,400 multiemployer pension plans. Many of these plans have funding problems as a result of the impact of the financial crises of 2000-2002 and 2008-2009 caused by the irresponsibility of Wall Street banks and the financial sector, all of which were financially supported during the crisis by the federal government. The failure of pension plans would hurt not only individual retirees but also their local communities, the plans’ contributing employers and the future of the multi-employer retirement system, overall”.

WE STILL HAVE WORK TO DO

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has been fighting for the American Miner’s Pension Act, introduced in the House, as House Resolution 935, and the Senate, as Senate Bill 27. This legislation will ensure that the 1974 Pension Plan can continue to pay the pensions retired miners or their surviving spouses have earned.

Without action by Congress, these pensions could be in jeopardy within just a few years. Unless Congress acts very soon, the amount of money available to pay pensions for the longer term will be severely reduced and the fund will become insolvent by 2023. This will force the fund to fall under the responsibility of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) which will not be able to sufficiently sustain the 86,000 people currently receiving a pension through the UMWA Health and Retirement Fund.

This issue concerns everyone and in order to be successful in this fight to preserve our pensions, we must work together as one to ensure Congress passes this legislation.

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