Do the AFM-EPF Trustees Really Support the Butch Lewis Act?

As many of you know, the Butch Lewis Act would provide Government-backed loans to the AFM-EPF which would assure that no musician’s pension gets cut. 

So where do our trustees currently stand on the Butch Lewis Act? They declared their support for it in late 2017 after months of pressure from musicians across the country, but since then, they have been cagey about it, saying only that there is an urgent need for Congress to act in a “bipartisan” fashion and that any solution must be “fair” to the musicians.

If you have been following Jonathan Kantor’s blog “The Butch Lewis Watch,” you already know that there are at least three “Government loan” proposals in Washington at the present:

  • Butch Lewis proposal, under which no one’s pension gets cut 
  • UPS proposal, under which government loans go to AFM-EPF, but our pensions get cut up to 20% 
  • NCCMP proposal, under which a select few pension plans get loans, but AFM-EPF does not, and our pensions get cut pretty much any way our trustees want.

All three proposals involve government loans, but only one of them, the Butch Lewis Act, saves our pensions from being cut. And of the three proposals, the NCCMP proposal is by far the worst. Under NCCMP’s approach, the government-backed loans in the Butch Lewis Act would be available only to the small number of plans that cannot get United States Treasury approval of their applications to cut benefits. The ones that get approval to cut benefits would not get loans. And the NCCMP wants to make it much easier for trustees to cut pensions when they want to. For more information, click here to see Jonathan Kantor’s latest blog post on the NCCMP’s proposal. 

Our trustees should be pushing hard for the Butch Lewis Act. But they are not pushing at all. Here’s what they say about their recent lobbying activities on the AFM-EPF website: 

  • “The Trustees (as well as the AFM and Fund employers) are advocating to members of this [Joint Select] Committee—asking that they move with urgency to produce a bipartisan solution that treats our participants fairly.”
  • On April 24, “Trustee Brockmeyer and the other League representatives emphasized at each meeting how important it is for the Joint Select Committee to produce a bipartisan and fair solution for all multiemployer plans facing potential insolvency in the future.
  • ”On May 10, Hair went to Washington. “In his meetings, Trustee Hair emphasized what the consequences would be if the Joint Select Committee does not take action this year to protect multiemployer pension funds like the AFM-EPF.”

What is going on here? We have pointed out the historic ties between our trustees and the NCCMP – trustees Brockmeyer and Moriarity serve as board members of NCCMP, and AFM-EPF is a dues-paying member of NCCMP. It was only last year that we discovered that our trustees collaborated in 2014 with NCCMP to get MPRA passed. MPRA is the law that allows our trustees to cut our accrued pension benefits – a law that overturned over 40 years of pension law. 

So is it possible that our trustees have abandoned or softened their support for the Butch Lewis Act and have migrated to the NCCMP proposal? That would be disloyal and harmful to plan participants. And yet, it may well be happening. Given the trustees' poor record on transparency and their deep long-term connection to the NCCMP, it is a fair question to ask.

Our trustees must declare clearly and unequivocally their support for the Butch Lewis Act and categorically reject the NCCMP’s proposals.