(WASHINGTON) – Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), retiree advocates and hundreds of retirees on Capitol Hill today to call on Congress to protect the earned retirement benefits of millions of American retirees and workers.
The “Keep Our Pension Promises Act” (KOPPA), sponsored by Sen. Sanders and Rep. Kaptur, would protect workers and retirees from cuts to their earned retirement benefits. The legislation would roll back provisions that were slipped into the fiscal 2015 spending bill approved by Congress last year that made earned pension benefits vulnerable to cuts.
“We’re here to protect pensions. We have retirees here from all across America and this is just the beginning of our fight,” Hoffa said. “Hardworking Americans have earned the right to retire with dignity.”
“We have to send a loud and clear message—when a promise is made to working people, that promise must be kept. We can’t slash pensions in this country,” Sen. Sanders said. “If we stand together, if all Americans stand together, we can win this fight.”
“Your pension benefits are your earned benefits and you have a right to them,” Rep. Kaptur told retirees. “I am proud to stand with you.”
Today, the U.S. Treasury Department held a hearing in Washington, D.C., on finalizing a rule that will open the door to pension cuts for retirees. This rule flies in the face of a long-standing prohibition against cuts for current retirees. If the rule is finalized, it would be the first time that pension retirement security has been compromised since President Gerald Ford signed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) into law 41 years ago.
Teamsters International Vice President John Murphy spoke at the hearing about the urgency of protecting pensions, and Teamster retirees joined Teamster leaders outside the hearing and at the press conference on Capitol Hill in support of KOPPA.
KOPPA would restore anti-cutback rules so that retirees in financially troubled multi-employer pension plans would be protected from having their earned benefits cut. It ensures that the safety net system supported mostly by employers does not shift to one funded entirely by taxpayers.
In order to shore up the long-term sustainability of the existing federal pension insurance program, KOPPA creates a $30 billion legacy fund over 10 years, paid for by closing two tax loopholes used almost exclusively by the super-rich to avoid paying taxes.
More than 10 million Americans rely on multi-employer pension plans for their retirement security. If action is not taken to protect pensions, some 1.5 million workers in 200 retirement plans nationwide are at risk.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Hoffa said. “We must work together to protect our retirees and stop these cuts now.”
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.