Congress delays report on union pension fix

A special Congressional task force missed its deadline to solve a looming crisis in union-sponsored pensions. Pension plans covering an estimated 1.2 million Americans are projected to run out of money in the next 20 years, and the collapse of the largest of them, the Central States Teamsters Pension, will wipe out the government’s own insurance program for multiemployer pensions by about 2025.

The Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans, created in February, was supposed to produce a report and vote on a solution by the end of November. Instead, the committee chairs Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) issued a Nov. 29 statement saying the committee has made significant progress, and that a bipartisan solution is attainable, but more time is needed so the committee can continue its work.

The plan they’re working on could be good news for union members. The Washington Post obtained a draft of one bill being considered by the committee that would direct the Treasury Department to spend up to $3 billion a year to subsidize payments for retirees in failed pension plans, an expense that would be partly offset by a big increase in the insurance premiums that all union-sponsored multiemployer pension plans pay. The bill would also reverse controversial retiree benefit cuts that about a dozen pension plans have made in order to halt their slide toward insolvency.

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