Millions of Americans could be about to lose the pensions they rightfully earned through years of hard work, if Senate Republicans have their way.
Despite the fact that lawmakers receive taxpayer-funded pensions after they leave office, Senate Republicans refuse to bring up the Butch Lewis Act for a vote.
Passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan House vote, the bill would give the green light to the Treasury to provide loans to save 150 pension plans that are struggling to make payouts to retirees and their families.
Up to 1.3 million Americans could lose their pensions if Senate Republicans don’t step up, but the bill is just gathering dust on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) desk. It’s just another victim of his “legislative graveyard” that includes hundreds of pieces of legislation that would help the American people right now.
But it’s not just retirees and widows who fear losing these pensions. Workers are reconsidering retirement because they don’t want to risk not having some kind of income during their golden years.
They would lose 98 percent of the pension money they earned if the plans collapse. The Butch Lewis Act ensures these pensioners receive every last penny.
“You’re either looking at working longer—and who wants to work until you’ve got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel—or you’re looking at making concessions after you’ve worked all that time,” Louisiana paper mill technician and Local 13-1331 president Cedric McClinton said in a statement.
Instead of doing the right thing by passing the Butch Lewis Act to save pension funds, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill that would make the pension crisis worse by forcing workers to not only pay higher premiums but also taxes on their pensions so that the federal government will see more money than workers ever will.
According to the AFL-CIO:
As it stands, their proposal will not only injure the retirees and active participants it purports to help, it also will precipitate the collapse of all multiemployer pension plans.
This document contains no federal financial assistance whatsoever. Contrast this to the over $700 billion that the government provided to the banks and Wall Street in 2008 and other corporate tax giveaways in recent years. Here, under the guise of a federal solution, Grassley and Alexander have crafted a tax increase that hits hardest those who do not bear responsibility for the financial challenges faced by troubled multiemployer pension plans—including retirees, active pension plan participants, unions and employers.”
Right now, only 150 pension plans are in jeopardy of collapse, affecting 1.3 million Americans. But if Senate Republicans pass Grassley’s bill, all 1,400 plans would go under, affecting tens of millions of Americans across the country.
It would be a devastating blow to workers and retirees — all while Republicans continue to push for massive tax cuts and bailouts for the wealthy and corporations.
“That’s mind-boggling,” Evergreen Packaging union lobbyist Travis Birchfield said. “We’ve done bailouts and tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and then working people can’t get a damn loan? Nobody’s trying to get rich here. We’re just trying to get our retirements.”
That’s a sentiment that surely every worker, regardless of political affiliation, understands and shares.
Americans are hard-working people, and people who put in years and decades of hard work deserve to retire comfortably knowing they have a pension they earned to take care of them and their families in the years ahead. Retiring also frees up jobs for younger workers, so a worker who is forced to delay retirement out of fear they will lose their pension shuts young people out of jobs they need.
Pensions are a promise that should be kept. If they aren’t, a pension means nothing.
Featured image via screen capture
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