Stephenson: ‘They Are Trying to Kill America’s Multiemployer Pension Plans’
IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson is asking active and retired IBEW members to keep up the pressure on lawmakers to reject a disastrous multiemployer pension plan circulating in the Senate.
The plan, introduced by Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), is a recipe for the ruin of IBEW multiemployer pension plans, including the National Electrical Benefit Fund.
Members across the country have answered the urgent call since it went out a month ago, with hundreds of calls and meetings at Senate field offices.
“But as long as this proposal is still out there, we are not done,” Stephenson said. “We are not going to rest until this plan is officially dead.”
The white paper, titled the “Multiemployer Pension Recapitalization and Reform Plan,” is a wish list of tenets the conservatives are demanding be included in legislation to reform the multiemployer pension system, which is in crisis due to the imminent insolvency of several large plans. The failure of these plans, including Teamsters’ Central States, could threaten the security of the government insurance program that protects pensioners should their plan become insolvent, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
“They claim they are trying to help troubled pensions but the truth is that they are trying to kill America’s multiemployer pension plans, including ours,” President Stephenson said in a video message to members.
One retiree from Idaho, a 35-year member, sent a letter to Sen. Mike Crapo, explaining that he and his wife – who is also a member – participate in two negotiated multiemployer defined benefit plans.
“These are plans we rely on for most of our retirement security and ours are some of the healthiest of these plans that exist,” said the Pocatello Local 449 member. “Many times, we have taken the responsible steps of increasing contributions to these plans to ensure that they have remained ‘healthy’ — investing in our futures rather than diverting our available monetary resources to wages during our negotiation process with our employer partners.”
We anticipate that the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Chuck Grassley, and the Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Lamar Alexander, will be holding hearings in the coming months on this plan.
HOW BAD IS IT?
Released November 20, 2019, the Grassley-Alexander plan would:
- Drastically raise fees on healthy pension plans like the NEBF
- Increase the amount of taxes retirees pay on benefits, up to 10 percent
- Turn “green zone” (healthy) plans into “yellow” or “red” zone (endangered or critical) plans, thus forcing the reduction of benefits and increasing taxes on pensioners
Click here for more details of this plan.
IBEW RESPONSE, BY THE NUMBERS
In-person meetings, telephone calls, emails and letters as well as traditional and social media are being used to get the word out to senators. Here’s a snapshot of what’s happened so far:
- More than 500 direct, in-person interactions with senators and in-state staff. Feedback from offices varies from “we were unaware” to “we’ll look into it” to “we’re opposed.”
- More than 3,600 calls made to senators via the AFL-CIO hotline: (844) 551-6921
- Kansas City, Mo., Local 124 members sent nearly 650 cards to senators opposing the plan
- Local unions across the country have set up informational websites and are including the issue in newsletters and at local union meetings
- IBEW members are sharing and engaging with social media posts, including the “Don’t Bankrupt my Retirement Security” meme, Electrical Worker article and a video featuring President Stephenson. The total number of people who have seen these posts is more than 500,000.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Make the IBEW’s strong opposition to the Grassley-Alexander plan known to lawmakers by:
- Showing up at official and campaign events
- Scheduling meetings at in-state offices
- Calling Senate offices at (844) 551-6921. Here’s a sample script. Click here for additional talking points.
- Sending a Letter to the Editor to your local newspaper
- Spreading the word on social media. Here’s a graphic to post under #ProtectOurPension.