UPDATE on the Butch Lewis Act

 Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Sherrod Brown

Bi-Partisan Committee Created to Solve Pension Crisis by Year’s End

Unfortunately, the Butch Lewis Act did not make it into the bipartisan budget deal the U.S. Senate passed last week. However, this is no reason to give up hope. As a compromise, a bipartisan House and Senate Joint Select Committee, led by Senator Sherrod Brown, will be tasked with coming up with a solution to the pension crisis by the last week of November 2018. You can read the details about the committee on his website here.
 
“Washington bailed out Wall Street, and Wall Street turned around and stole the pensions Ohioans worked for. Now Congress has a responsibility to protect the pensions workers earned before it is too late,” Senator Brown said. “While it is not the immediate solution we hoped for, this Committee will force Congress to finally treat the pension crisis with the seriousness and urgency American workers deserve.”
 
Even without the bill passing, there are some encouraging things that have happened. In supporting the Butch Lewis Act we, the AFM membership, pushed the trustees to finally look beyond MPRA as a legislative solution to our pension crisis. Six months ago, they were totally disengaged from the legislative process claiming that there is no pension-related legislation that could help the AFM-EPF. Flash forward to December 2017, after immense pressure from AFM membership the trustees are writing to us in full support of the Butch Lewis Act. That is progress which only came thanks to your calls and emails.
 
While the Butch Lewis Act did not get added to the budget deal, this new Committee could develop something better. There are some good components to the Committees’ mandate. There is a hard deadline, the last week of November 2018, to report on a bill to solve the pension crisis. Also, if there are 10 committee members in agreement they are guaranteed an expedited vote on Senate floor with no amendments.
 
The Committee is also required hold at least 5 public hearings, including the option for another outside of D.C. These meetings will be held to hear directly from retirees, workers, and businesses affected by the pension crisis. Now, this is the challenge to the AFM and the AFM-EPF trustees. While call-in campaigns are useful, they pale in comparison to a physical presence. Our trustees need to be at those meetings. Not only that, but they should monitor and interface with the members of the Committee, throughout the year, to make sure our needs are heard. MPS has long been in contact with Senator Brown’s staff (see our previous article here). There is no obstacle to our trustees having the same access.
 
While our trustees seemingly continue to pursue making cuts to benefits through MPRA as an option, it should never be the first and only option.  With the creation of the House and Senate Joint Select Committee tasked with coming up with a solution to the pension crisis, there is a new opportunity to move in a direction away from MPRA and cuts to benefits. Our trustees should be planning to take full advantage of this and there is no excuse for them to not be fully engaged in this process.