By Karen Friedman
Sometimes our blogs are about pensions. Today it’s about something more personal.
Today we went to a memorial service for a Senate staffer who really mattered.
Over 1,000 people – friends, family, Senators, staffers, pension and tax colleagues — packed a Senate room to pay their respects to Chris Allen, who died unexpectedly on January 9, 2020 at age 58. At that time of his death, he was working tirelessly to help develop a compromise proposal for his boss Senator Chuck Grassley, the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to save the pensions of more than one million retired truck drivers, musicians, bakery workers, iron workers, carpenters, laborers, and others.
The tributes at the memorial captured what a wonderfully special person he was. His former boss, Senator Pat Roberts, said of Chris “He loved his job. He saw it as a privilege to work in the United States Senate… he loved his co-workers and would help senior staff, junior staff, even interns. He would give advice and roll up his sleeves to help everyone.”
His colleagues and friends, Mark Warren and Kathleen Black, fondly remembered Chris as a loyal, hard-working and witty man who “played politics and played fair, just as hard as he had played lacrosse. “They remarked that Chris always made work “more fun and kinder.” And one remarked that “There’s now an angel in heaven rooting for multiemployer reform.”
We will always remember him fondly. The first time we met Chris in the Senate Finance Committee office, he pointed to a large stack of hundreds of letters from truckdrivers, miners and other retirees who faced huge cuts in their pensions if the multiemployer crisis wasn’t fixed. He told us that he had read every one of the letters and was committed to doing everything he could to make sure their hard-earned pensions would not be slashed.
Chris led the efforts in crafting a compromise proposal with the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Plans and then later, at the request of Senator Grassley, his boss and the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, undertook to develop a new proposal that would take into account the interests of all of the stakeholders in the multiemployer pension world, including employers, unions, trustees, workers, taxpayers, and retirees.
On November 20, 2019, Senator Grassley and Senator Lamar Alexander issued a report, “The Multiemployer Pension Recapitalization and Reform Plan,” to address the multiemployer crisis. The proposal has some ideas that are promising and many that we disagree with. But Chris patiently listened to everyone’s, concerns and told us he would try to incorporate changes into the evolving draft in which he was balancing numerous interests.
In his Floor Statement about Chris, Senator Grassley said, “What stands out about Chris is his ability to bring folks with very different views together in the classic legislative process … His goodwill and dedication were infectious. Every day was meaningful. Every day was a source of joy.”
We felt that too. We always felt welcome in his office. He shared with us, as we are sure he did with others, his great love for his family and his happiness and excitement about the experiences his two daughters, Lucie and Sophie, were having in college. And this was also reflected at the memorial.
Everyone we have spoken to has renewed energy to work even harder for reforms since Chris’ death. This was also reflected by Senator Grassley. “Resolving the multiemployer pension crisis remains a top priority and now we have another important reason to see it done in Chris’ memory.”
Let’s work hard, do it right, and get the job done – not just for the millions of retirees whose pensions will be cut, but also for Chris.
See also Floors Statements about Chris Allen by Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown.