Butch Lewis is in Trouble Unless Plan Participants Are Heard From

Butch Lewis Watch – Installment #5

By Jonathan Kantor
 
The Joint Select Committee on Multiemployer Pensions held a field hearing in Columbus Ohio on Friday July 13. The comments from the lawmakers made clear that unless there is more vocal support from Union members and retirees, the Butch Lewis Act is in trouble. The Butch Lewis Act would extend government guaranteed loans to plans like AFM-EPF, avoiding any necessity for cuts to accrued pension benefits.
 
At the hearing, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA) said that unless workers and retirees “make your voice heard” there will be no help forthcoming from the Federal government. Manchin said that “we need to have the federal government step up” to provide financial assistance to ailing pension plans. But, addressing the audience, Manchin said, “we need your help.”
 
Without popular support, Manchin predicted that there will be no legislative solution to the multiemployer pension crisis: “it’s going to fall apart - I can see it coming,” he said. Manchin believes that the collapse will occur in November of this year.
 
In the absence of any popular outpouring of support for Butch Lewis, the Joint Committee has been hearing only from Washington insiders and lobbyists. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said that for the past three months the Committee has conducted a dozen bipartisan staff briefings with policy experts, with at least ten more to come.
 
Senator Portman (R-OH) made clear the need to hear from other than Washington insiders. He stated it was a mistake during the passage of MPRA in 2014 that Congress didn’t listen to a diversity of views, including those of workers and retirees. He stated that he believes MPRA needs to be reformed to address the lack of  “transparency and democracy” in way cuts to pensions are made.