Butch Lewis Watch – Installment #7
By Jonathan Kantor
In a stinging defeat for the Democrats, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is the co-chairman of the Select Committee on Multiemployer Pensions and one of the key negotiators to craft new legislation, has agreed to severely narrow the Butch Lewis Act to a small category of plans. According to a statement from Brown’s office, “We have amended the bill to limit it to critical and declining plans as of the date of enactment and any critical plan as of enactment below 40% funded with an active to inactive ratio below 40%. MPRA plans and some currently insolvent plans remain eligible for the program.” In plain English, this means that the loan assistance program under Butch Lewis is now beyond the reach of the vast majority of multiemployer plans like the AFM-EPF.
We have been warning that Butch Lewis has been under attack from powerful Washington insiders and lobbyists and that lawmakers were listening to them. The key group on the issue has been the NCCMP, a powerful Washington lobbying organization that purports to represent the interests of multiemployer plans like the AFM-EPF. The NCCMP played a key role in the formulation of MPRA, the 2014 law that allows trustees to cut accrued pension benefits. Now, they are doing it again, and have convinced lawmakers to make the loan assistance program under Butch Lewis beyond the reach of plans like AFM-EPF. AFM-EPF is currently paying over $27,000 a year to be a member of the NCCMP, where AFM-EPF trustees Christopher Brockmeyer and Bill Moriarity currently sit on the Board of Directors and the Steering Committee.
NCCMP is not finished yet. They want two more things: first, to change the law to give trustees virtually limitless power to cut pensions; and second, to provide for a new kind of pension plan, which they call the “composite plan.” The composite plan has no PBGC guarantees; the trustees can cut benefits without any kind of governmental approval; andhas funding rules so strict that cuts are much more likely to occur than under current law.
MPS has formulated its own legislative proposal to restore fairness to MPRA, read it here. We don’t have the clout that NCCMP does, but there are some legislators who are willing to listen. Senator Portman (R-OH) stated recently that he believes MPRA needs to be reformed to address the lack of “transparency and democracy” in the way cuts to pensions are made. That’s a start.