Congressman Tim Ryan and Senator Sherrod Brown Stand With Ohio Retirees To Announce Plan To Protect Pensions

Nov 6, 2017 Issues: Economy

Youngstown, OH – Today, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) and US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Ohio retirees at Teamsters Local 377 to highlight the need to defend workers’ pensions. Numerous Ohio pension plans including the massive Central States Teamsters Pension Plan, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Ironworkers Local 17 Pension Plan, the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan and the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan are currently on the brink of failure and threatened by harmful laws that allow trustees to propose massive cuts.

Last month, Congressman Ryan introduced the Prioritizing Our Workers (POWA) Act. This legislation revises the priorities section of the bankruptcy code to place unpaid vested benefits on the same level as bankruptcy attorneys’ fees and other highest-priority claims that a company must pay out in full before paying any other claims.

Congressman Ryan’s bill would re-define claims for unfunded vested benefits in defined benefit pension plan as “administrative expenses” of the estate, which, under bankruptcy law, must be paid before all other claims. The bill puts pension benefits on the same level as bankruptcy attorneys’ fees and other highest-priority claims that a company must pay out in full BEFORE paying any other claims.

“Hardworking Americans are the true profit creators in our country. Their work is why any company is able to earn a profit. Pensions are not ‘benefits’ given as a gift from employer to employee, they are payment for work that was already done – and neither government nor business has the right to take them away. We in Congress must be doing everything in our power to protect the retirement these Americans have earned,” Ryan said.

Senator Brown introduced his plan to ensure that Ohio retirees can keep the pensions they have earned.

“It’s bad enough that Wall Street squandered workers’ money – and it’s worse that the government that’s supposed to look out for these folks is trying to break the promise made to these workers. Not on our watch. We won’t allow that to happen,” Brown said.

Under Brown’s proposal, pension plans applying for a PRA loan must demonstrate the loan would fully cover the plan’s liability and that the plan is expected to meet loan repayment obligations.

To ensure that the pension plans can afford to repay the loans, the PRA would lend them money for 30 years at low interest rates, around 3 percent.  The 30-year loans would buy time for the pension plans so they may invest for the long term instead of worrying about coming up with money immediately to pay for the pensions of retired workers.  Plans that demonstrate that they cannot pay full benefits with the loan alone will receive additional help from the PBGC which will receive the resources needed to provide assistance.

In 2016 alone, over 146, 000 individual pensioners have experienced cuts in their pensions benefits, and Congressman Ryan continues to play a lead role in fighting to protect these hard earned benefits in Congress:

Congressman Ryan also joined Senator Manchin, Senator Capito, Congressman McKinley and Congressman Welch in introducing the American Miners Pension Act (AMP Act) which would ensure the 87,000 retired miners receiving pensions, as well as another 20,000 who are vested, won’t lose their pensions benefits under the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan which will soon be insolvent.

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) also  joined Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in introducing The Keep Our Pension Promises Act, which would reverse a provision passed in 2014 that could result in deep pension cuts for millions of retirees and workers in multi-employer pension plans. The new legislation establishes a legacy fund within the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to ensure that multi-employer pension plans can continue to provide pension benefits to every eligible American for decades to come. This legislation is paid for by closing two tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.