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Sen. Sherrod Brown Announces Plan To Rescue Union Pension Funds

Andrew Harnik
Associated Press
Sen. Sherrod Brown greets protesters outside a committee meeting on a Republican plan to reform the Affordable Care Act.

Congressional Democrats are hoping to include a rescue in the end-of-the-year spending package for several large union-based pensions that fund managers say are running out of money.   

Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced a bill aimed at preventing what he called 30-50 percent cuts in pension payments, which could affect as many as 1 million teamsters, miners, bakers, and carpenters. 

His bill is named the “Butch Lewis Act,” after a Cincinnati-area Teamster who carried on the fight to save his pension fund but died in 2015.

“This legislation is not a bailout,” Brown says. “This legislation, which will be bipartisan as we move it through the Senate and the House., we’ll make sure that people’s pensions –which they’ve earned, they’ve worked 30-40 years for these pensions – will in fact be restored and will be made whole.”  

Brown likens the bill to the non-partisan effort signed earlier this year to save health care for retired miners. This time, it would employ low interest loans to shore up the pensions.

“We do this bill through the sale of 30-year bonds from the Treasury, low interest, secure bonds,” Brown says. “Use those dollars in a way to invest in over 30 years these – there will be very few taxpayers’ dollars at risk in this. “  

Brown says if the pensions fail, the federal Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation will not be able to save them.

A spokesman for Ohio’s other Senator, Republican Rob Portman, says he’s still reviewing the proposal.