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Brown Briefs Teamsters, Union Members On Effort To Save Their Pensions

Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown
J. Scott Applewhite
Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown

More than 100 Teamsters and other union retirees and active members crowded into a union hall in Canton Sunday morning to get an update from Sen. Sherrod Brown on what it may take to save their pensions. The crisis that could affect 60,000 Ohioans and a million-and-a-half workers and retirees.

Brown was appointed last week to co-chair an unusual joint committee of the House and Senate. By the end of the year, it’s charged with coming up with a way to restore the precarious finances of what are called multi-employer pensions for groups like the Teamsters, mineworkers and carpenters.

Brown has been pushing a fix called the Butch Lewis Act, which would provide a low-interest, 30-year loan to the pensions. Though the union hall was filled with Butch Lewis signs and shirts, Brown acknowledged uncertainty.

“I don’t have preconceived notions on what we end up with," Brown said. "I’d love to end up with Butch Lewis, I think that’s the best idea. But I also understand we’ve got to get five Republican and five Democratic votes.”

The 16-member committee is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. If it gets the bipartisan deal from at least 10 of them, the measure will go to the full House and Senate for a straight up-or-down vote.