We’re working hard to protect your pensions

Working men and women deserve peace of mind knowing they will have financial security as they enter retirement. Protecting the pensions that you have worked a lifetime to earn continues to be one of my top priorities in Congress, and I want to update you on our work to prevent unfair cuts to retirement benefits as the year comes to a close.

Just two years ago, at the last minute and behind closed doors, Congress included the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act in a must-pass spending bill. The MPRA allowed distressed pension funds to cut earned benefits to retirees and workers in certain circumstances. As a result, the Central States Pension Plan sought government approval to reduce pensions for retirees and current workers by as much as 70 percent, which would have impacted 30,000 Michigan members. We fought this proposal tooth and nail, and thankfully, the Treasury Department rejected Central States’ application.

The threat of pension cuts remains real and I’m concerned we could see “MPRA Part 2” included in this year’s spending bill. In September, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline held a hearing on legislation to change how multiemployer pension plans are administered. This proposal would change funding rules and allow relatively healthy multiemployer plans to transition to two inferior plans: a “legacy plan” that allows employers to make smaller annual contributions than the original plan and a new “composite plan” that makes no binding promises to workers and retirees.

This is unacceptable. Workers in Michigan and across the country have contributed to these pensions their entire working lives and should be able to count on them when they retire. This is not an entitlement but something that has been part of their pay and benefit structure that they have earned. That’s why my colleagues and I sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and House leadership urging them to reject the inclusion of any pension reform legislation in any must-pass end-of-year spending bill.

We are in full agreement that Congress must address the issues facing pension plans and that tough choices will be required. However, we cannot blindly accept a proposal that has not been properly analyzed, and which permits employers and pension funds to transition to new plans. This would put existing plans at greater risk and would ultimately hurt working families.

Protecting the retirement benefits workers have earned is one of my top priorities, and I will continue to fight any pension reform proposal that puts an inordinate burden on workers and retirees. Please continue communicating your priorities to me as we move into the next legislative year. You can sign up to receive regular updates from my office by going to https://debbiedingellforms.house.gov/forms/emailsignup. You can also contact me anytime through mywebsite (https://debbiedingell.house.gov), and receive real-time updates by following me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RepDebbieDingell), Twitter (https://twitter.com/RepDebDingell) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/repdingell/?hl=en). Please know I will not stop working on behalf of the hardworking people of the 12th District.