Washington – The Pension Rights Center released the following statement from Executive Vice President Karen Friedman, following the passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of an omnibus spending bill that includes measures that allow certain underfunded multiemployer pension plans to cut retirees’ benefits:
“It is a travesty that, in the year of the 40th anniversary of the landmark private pension law, ERISA, the House has swept away a fundamental and sacred principle of the law: that once a retiree has begun receiving a pension, it cannot be reduced unless a plan runs completely out of money.
“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially-troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years – when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive.
“Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.
“Consideration of this legislation should have been delayed January, when the new Congress convenes and when it could have been addressed in a deliberative and thoughtful way. Our nation’s retirees deserve better.”
The omnibus spending bill now goes to the Senate, which must pass it by midnight Saturday to avoid a government shutdown.