Six Democratic Presidential candidates pledged their support for employee pension plans and other measures that would make it easier and fairer for workers to build adequate savings for retirement.
Debating worker-related issues at the Teamsters Presidential Forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last week, the six candidates pitched their ideas for strengthening collective bargaining and protecting union pensions and other plans that benefit workers.
The candidates – former Vice President Joe Biden, billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and U.S. Senators Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders – expressed how they were the best candidate to go to bat for U.S. workers, but each offered different approaches.
Sen. Booker said that there is no bi-partisan rush to shield worker pensions from cuts that would be economically devastating to a lot of workers. He said the ability to retire with dignity and security is “something I will fight for, go to the mat for” if elected president.
Joe Biden indicated that as president, his Treasury Department would provide 1% loans to ensure multiemployer pension plan providers to make the plans more affordable and boost the ability of the plans to sustain themselves.
Tom Steyer voiced his support for the Butch Lewis Act of 2019, a law introduced to the Senate to address the growing pension crisis driving retirees into financial hardship. The bill establishes the Pension Rehabilitation Administration within the Department of the Treasury and a related trust fund providing loans to pension plans that are in decline or insolvent.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would introduce legislation similar to the Butch Lewis Act that would prohibit employers from cutting worker pensions that were promised the pension. “It will not happen,” he said of employers that plan to cut the pensions they promised to their employees.
Sen. Klobuchar said that she supports securing the Central States Pension Fund, advancing plans to secure the future of new workers, and lifting the payroll tax cap to bolster Social Security and shield it from privatization plans.
Mayor Buttigieg told the Teamsters that his vision includes the idea that everyone has a right “to retire with security.”
“Even for those who are not fortunate enough to be represented by a strong union and to have the benefits of some of those negotiated pension plans,” said Buttigieg. “We have to begin to make sure that social security is there for all of us.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was not at the Cedar Rapids forum, proposes on her website Social Security improvements, worker pension and retirement savings plan improvements, and increases in worker pay.
“It’s too hard to save enough for a decent retirement — and it’s only getting harder,” the Massachusetts senator writes.
Political candidates aren’t the only ones vowing to fight the alarming trend to cut employee pensions. The growing pension crisis that threatens millions of U.S. retirees has brought out the fight in several worker advocates, including Dee Miles, head of Beasley Allen’s Consumer Fraud Section.
“Employers abandoning funding obligations to employee pension plans for the purpose of increasing corporate profits is one of the worst acts of corporate greed,” said Mr. Miles. “If corporate America bends the ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) rules to underfund or fail to fund employee pension plans, they are going to be held accountable by the participants, and our law firm is going to be there with corrective action litigation. We owe our American workers this type of protection after a lifetime of labor.”