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U.S. House Passes 'Butch Lewis Act' To Save Pensions

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at a rally for United Steelworkers union.
Sherrod Brown
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at a rally for United Steelworkers union.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday to help stabilize multiemployer pensions, which would affect 60,000 Ohio workers. Now the bill is up for consideration in the Senate, where Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has been pushing for its passage.

The Butch Lewis Act is named after a late Cincinnati Teamster who fought pension cuts. It would create a loan program to help failing pension plans meet their commitments.

According to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), one of the House bill’s original cosponsors, there are 1,400 such pension plans covering 10 million people across the country. Approximately 1.3 million workers are facing significant cuts to their pensions due to funding problems.

“I have heard the message time and again from retirees in my district and across this nation: they worked for decades to earn these pensions and they cannot sustain these massive cuts,” Kaptur said on the House floor. “Now they are too old, or their health too unstable, to return to the workforce. The stress and anxiety are sapping their will. Some have taken their own lives.”

The Democratic-controlled House overwhelmingly passed the measure, with the support of 29 Republicans.

Brown hopes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) keeps the coal miners and Teamsters he represents in mind.

“Coal miners only get about a $600 pension, and their widows only get about a $600 pension now,” Brown says. “And to think that should be cut in half is just cruel and inhumane. I can’t say it any other way. I’m hopeful Sen. McConnell will finally work with us on this and move forward.”

Brown has 27 co-sponsors for the bill, although no Republicans have signed on so far. He’s been working with Butch Lewis’ widow, Rita Lewis, to encourage support.