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November 2019

From the Officers
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We Need Your Help on Pensions

You've heard from me a lot over the last few months about pensions, but I need your help once again.

Brothers and sisters, America's multiemployer pension system is in serious trouble. A few large plans are within five or six years of going insolvent, threatening to leave millions of working men and women without the secure retirements they work their whole lives for. We need to take action now!

The IBEW's national plans are all in good shape, and most of our local union plans are too. But imagine a very large boulder perched at the edge of a hill. These troubled pensions are the boulder, and all of the healthy pension plans like yours and mine are sitting down below, endangered by this monstrosity we can't control.

Over the last year, I have traveled across this nation and talked about the looming problem we face. Since July, I've chaired the AFL-CIO's subcommittee on multiemployer pensions, and I've heard from the retirees, politicians and labor leaders who know the devastating effects a failed pension system could have on retirees, communities, unions — even the whole economy. Honestly, it keeps me up at night.

We have an opportunity to work together as part of a broader coalition within the labor movement to avoid this dangerous situation, but we need to urge the U.S. Senate to act fast.

I've seen bad solutions proposed, like the one late last year when lawmakers wanted to tax healthy pensions like ours to reinforce the government's insurance system. Together, we stopped that plan dead in its tracks. It made no sense to endanger healthy pensions to pay for failing ones, and we told them so.

In July, the House passed the best chance we've got to avoid failure: the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, or the "Butch Lewis Act" for short. To put it simply, it's a loan program for troubled plans that won't end up costing taxpayers a dime.

Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced the bill in the Senate — SB 2254 — but now we're running out of time. The Senate goes home for the holidays in just over a month and no one believes there's any chance for this important legislation if it doesn't get done in the next six weeks.

That's where you all come in. Politicians need to hear from you!

Whether you've answered the call before or not, we need you — Republican or Democrat — to call your senators and demand that they take action on the Butch Lewis Act. Together, let's make sure congress hears our voices loud and clear!

Visit or call 202-224-3121 to find your senator and let them know we need them to act. This issue is too important to sit on the sidelines.


Also: Stephenson: Paying Tribute to Our Veterans Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer