Last Thursday, more than 2,000 retirees from around the country visited Washington, D.C., to tell Congress and policymakers one thing: Don’t cut our pensions. These retired truck drivers, warehouse workers, dock workers, widows, spouses and other retired Teamsters attended a rally held at the U.S. Capitol to protest devastating pension cuts that could affect more than 270,000 people. The cuts, proposed by the Central States Pension Fund, are the result of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA), a law that allows certain severely underfunded multiemployer plans to cut retiree pensions today – eviscerating one of ERISA’S most critical protections.
The rally, organized by retiree activists Bob Amsden, Mike Walden and retiree leaders from around the country, was held to urge Congress to repeal the MPRA cuts and to urge the Treasury Department to reject the devastating cuts proposed by the Central States Pension Fund. Many of the people who attended the rally are facing pension cuts between 40 and 70 percent. The retirees were joined by 14 members of Congress, including Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Rick Nolan (D-MN). Teamsters union president Jim Hoffa, and General Vice President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, James Conigliaro, and other national leaders. See here for a full list of speakers.
Karen Friedman, PRC’s executive vice president and policy director, was among the rally’s speakers and demanded that U.S. Treasury Department, “just say no” to the Central States’ application to cut retiree pension benefits because it “flunks every condition required under the law.”
Throughout the rally retirees and speakers joined together to chant “No cuts. No cuts. No cuts.”
The rally took place less than three weeks before the May 7 deadline for the Treasury Department, which is responsible for MPRA’s implementation, to make its decision on whether to approve the application. The Central States Pension Fund is the first and largest plan to apply to the Treasury Department to cut retiree pension benefits under MPRA, but three other plans have also filed to make similar retiree pension benefit cuts. If permitted, Central States Pension Fund retirees could see their pensions cut as early as July 1.
If the Treasury Department allows the cuts to move forward, Friedman warned of a possible “national crisis that would not only devastate hundreds of thousands of retired Teamsters, spouses and widows, but will likely lead to dozens of other multiemployer plans announcing plans to cut their retirees’ benefits – affecting more than a million people.” The reason for her concern is simple. The Center believes that 50 to 100 of the other plans that are eligible to make retiree pension cuts under the law would move forward with their own applications to cut retiree pensions if the Central States application is approved. If this happens, more than one million retirees could be at risk of seeing significant pension cuts.
After the rally, Representative Marcy Kaptur and Representative Tim Ryan took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during a “special order” to call attention to the proposed pension cuts – and the need for Congress to act quickly to protect retiree pensions. Watch video of their comments here and here.
The day after the rally, the Senate’s entire delegation of Democrats sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urging that the Department “conduct a thorough analysis and carefully check every aspect” of the application on behalf of the 270,000, retirees, spouses, widows and active workers who would be affected” by the cuts.
See photos from the rally here.