In a stunning betrayal of America’s highly vulnerable retiree population, lawmakers are preparing legislation for the lame duck session of Congress that would overturn a key tenant of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and allow drastic cuts to the pensions of current retirees and surviving spouses.
The legislation, which is being brokered behind closed doors by members of the House Education and Workforce Committee, would be attached to the massive Omnibus Spending Bill, and could take effect without opportunity for hearings or public comment.
“This is nothing less than a declaration of war by Congress on American retirees,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Allowing cuts to existing retirees’ pensions is simply the wrong way to address the problems of a few troubled pension plans. Does anyone doubt that trustees of such plans will not jump at the opportunity to improve a shaky bottom line at the expense of their retired workers? The long-standing promise of a secure pension system must not be overturned by unaccountable lawmakers in a lame duck session of Congress.”
Since its inception in 1974, ERISA has expressly forbidden any cuts to the earned pension benefits of workers who have already retired. Amending the anti-cutback rule will set a dangerous, potentially lethal precedent for all other pension plans, including single-employer plans, public sector plans, and even Social Security.
“The IAM reiterates its strong opposition to any legislation that would allow the trustees of ‘deeply troubled’ multiemployer pension plans to solve funding challenges by impoverishing current retirees,” said Buffenbarger in a letter to Congress.