The Electrical Worker online
September 2019

From the Officers
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
A Win for Pension Promises

Back in July, many of you helped pull off something that's pretty extraordinary in Washington these days: a bipartisan victory for workers.

For months, we've banded together with our brothers and sisters in other unions to support the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, better known as the "Butch Lewis Act." Amazingly, a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives voted for the bill — every single Democrat and 29 Republicans.

As your International Secretary-Treasurer and a trustee of the National Electrical Benefit Fund, I'm happy to report that nearly all of the IBEW's multiemployer pension plans have been wisely invested and are doing well. We're in good shape because our industry is strong.

But several major multiemployer plans in other industries are in trouble. It's not the workers' fault. In most cases, it's not even the pension managers' fault. Instead, the once-plentiful jobs that helped balance outgoing pension payments with incoming paycheck contributions are vanishing as the economy evolves.

Let me tell you, it's a recipe for disaster.

For 45 years, the federal government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has served as a safety net for working people's pensions. It guarantees that if a plan collapses, workers won't be left holding the bag.

But if these troubled plans in other industries all go under — and without intervention, that's almost a certainty — it would bankrupt the PBGC, endangering every single pension in the whole country, including yours.

That's where Butch Lewis comes in. It's designed to help take pressure off of the PBGC by creating a new federal loan agency tasked with figuring out how to bring troubled plans back to solvency. You can read more about it in this issue.

But here's the important thing. It's not a bailout; these loans would be fully repaid.

You and I know, a pension is a promise that if you work hard and put away a little from each paycheck throughout your career, you'll be able to retire securely and comfortably when the time comes. Imagine having that promise destroyed. Without a fix, millions of our brothers and sisters in other unions could be facing just that.

For the past year, we've lobbied, rallied, written and called, and we came out on top in the House. Thank you for that.

But the Senate is where good bills go to die. We need to keep up
the pressure, and that means we need you to call your senators at
202-224-3121 and tell them to support Sen. Sherrod Brown's SB 2254, the Butch Lewis Act. Together, we can help ensure that everyone's pension promises are kept promises.

Also: Stephenson: Speaking Up for Workers Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer