The Electrical Worker online
April 2019

From the Officers
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Protecting Your Pension

Back in February, I wrote to you about America's pension system and the urgent need for a solution for millions of hard-working men and women who deserve to get the benefits they worked and deferred their own wages for their entire working lives.

Thankfully, the vast majority, over 90 percent, of our IBEW pensions are safe and well-managed, as they ought to be. You worked hard to earn your pension, and you deserve to know that it's going to be there for you when you retire.

But some of our union brothers and sisters aren't so fortunate.

For 400,000 union workers across the Midwest covered by the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, soon-to-be retirees are facing the possibility of as much as a 50 percent reduction in benefits. But how could that happen? These men and women spent their lives working and bargaining for a benefit they're now likely to see cut in half.

Well, it turns out that government regulators put the foxes in charge of the henhouse. Back in the 1980s, as part of an effort to root out corruption in certain pension funds, the government let big banks like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust take over the fund's investments. Can you imagine? Politicians sold out working people to line the pockets of Wall Street, and now they're in a mess they're struggling to dig their way out of.

As your Secretary-Treasurer and one of the trustees of the National Electrical Benefit Fund, I want to assure you that our investment choices are made by professionals whose sole responsibility is to you, not some profit-seeking corporation. They're here to make sure that you get what you were promised, and I'm proud of that.

I also want to ask you to take a few minutes to call your members of Congress about a solution that could not only help our union brothers and sisters in troubled plans, but also keep those plans from infecting the whole system. It's called the Butch Lewis Act, and it's not a bailout like those given to the big banks back in 2008. It's a loan that would be fully repaid over time, and it's a responsible way for lawmakers to give those hard-working Americans what they earned.

As more and more of the private sector moves to 401(k)-style retirement plans, I also want to point out a new study about the economic impacts of defined benefit pensions like the NEBF. It turns out they're not just better for retirees. They're also better for communities.

Because pension beneficiaries aren't prisoner to stock market fluctuations like 401(k) retirees, they're more likely to spend money in their communities. They help stabilize local economies during recessions and help support roughly 7.5 million jobs and $685 billion in economic activity each year.

They're remarkable numbers, and just one of the many reasons we fight so hard for the benefits that you as IBEW members deserve.

Read more about the Butch Lewis Act and how you can help at


Also: Stephenson: An IBEW for Everyone Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer