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October 03, 2019

King Backs Bill to Protect Pensions for American Workers

Legislation relieves crisis that threatens workers, retirees and small businesses

BRUNSWICK, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced his cosponsorship of the Butch Lewis Act. Named for a retired truck driver and pension advocate, the Butch Lewis Act would address the pension crisis threatening the retirement of more than 1.3 million workers and retirees nationwide and putting small businesses across the country at risk. The bill would create a long-term loan program for at-risk pension plans, which would ease the effects of the crisis on the American people. The loans would keep pension plans solvent without cutting benefits for American retirees.

“The goal of this bill is simple: to ensure folks can enjoy the retirement security that they have earned,” said Senator King. “A large number of Americans are in danger of losing their hard-earned pensions. These are middle-class people – paper mill operators, bakers, and machinists – who are in danger of losing their financial security in retirement. The Butch Lewis Act is commonsense legislation that will give these folks peace of mind, ensuring that when they retire, they can live the life they’ve earned over the course of their careers.”

“These pension benefits are earned over many years,” said Tim Suitter, Legislative Chairman, Machinists Union Local S6. “The working families of Maine and across the country who have worked hard day in and day out to provide for their families, and pay wages towards their retirement, have every right to expect that money to be there when the time comes for them to retire. We thank Senator King for his leadership on this all important legislation.”

“This situation is not the workers’ fault, and they need to know that they’ll still be able to retire in dignity,” said Roy Houseman, Legislative Director, United Steelworkers (USW). “The Butch Lewis Act is absolutely essential in ensuring that workers with troubled multiemployer pension plans will be able to access the benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

Specifically, the legislation would create a 30-year loan program within the Department of Treasury to allow failing pensions plans to borrow the money they need to put them back on solid ground. The loans will help ensure that pension plans can meet their commitments to retirees and workers for decades to come. By putting the plans back on solid footing, the bill would also protect small businesses from the threat of closing their doors if plans are allowed to fail.

Butch Lewis, the legislation’s namesake, was a Vietnam War veteran who returned home and worked for 40 years as a Teamster. He was the retired head of Teamsters Local 100 in Evendale, Ohio. Butch led the fight to preserve his fellow Teamsters’ pensions, and passed away due to a stroke on New Year’s Eve in 2015. Doctors attributed his stroke, at least in part, to the stress he faced fighting the proposed pension cuts. His wife Rita Lewis, with whom he was set to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary before he died, has continued her late husband’s fight for the retirement security these workers earned over a lifetime of hard work   

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