“Broken promises mean broken lives” is the rallying cry … but John Kline, who is not running for re-election, is apparently deaf to their pleas.
Yeah, in a normal election year, John Kline would probably be holding a “Jobs Fair” … featuring companies like Cemstone; or promoting job training programs offered by Heavy Metal Truck Training school to qualify drivers to work for YRC, USF Holland, Jack Cooper Transport, or ABF Trucking; or just picking up campaign contributions from Dean Foods or Kemps.
Yeah, John Kline doesn’t have to engage with anyone anymore.
So it is that people will be descending on Washington for an April 14th “Protect Our Pensions” rally in hopes of applying pressure to the many bi-partisan supporters of legislation to rework Kline-authored legislation that allows cuts to retirees pensions.
Chairman John Kline holds the gavel and thus far, he has failed to hold a hearing on H.R. 2844 Keep Our Pension Promises Act which has 44 sponsors and H.R. 4029 Pension Accountability Act which has 13 sponsors.
These bills are a reaction to Chairman Kline’s insertion of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA) into the “must-pass” omnibus “keep-the-government-open” bill that was passed as the session ended. Chairman Kline’s bill never got a standalone floor vote … and many affected workers knew nothing about it until after it was enacted.
“There is a fundamental agreement that you don’t cut pensions to retirees,” said Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN-07), who is supporting a bill to outlaw cuts. “There were promises made and people contributed to the funds. I just don’t think it’s fair and we’ve got to do something about it.”
HR 2844 Keep Our Pension Promises Act would provide a direct path to protecting retiree pensions: a government guarantee through the PBGC, just like the one that existed before Chairman Kline forced a change in the law.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09) explained her bill:
“For more than 40 years, earned pension benefits for current retirees have been protected under federal law. But, at the end of last year, Congress passed a budget that stripped many of those protections and exposed retirees to cuts that take away more than half of their earned pensions. This is not only unfair to the workers that earned these benefits, it is also bad policy that will shift many retirees onto public assistance. It also sets a terrible precedent that exposes other retirement security efforts like Social Security to future cuts. We need a new approach, which is why Senator Sanders and I proposed our Keep Our Pension Promises legislation. This country should respect the value of work, and I am proud to be a soldier in that fight.”
The other proposal … a more modest change … HR 4029 the Pension Accountability Act would make it harder for multiemployer pension plans to simply slash current retiree pensions and walk away. It could force the plan trustees to negotiate with retirees in two ways:
First, for struggling pension plans seeking cuts, it will make the participant vote binding in all situations. This will give the workers and retirees a seat at the table to influence the solvency reforms. Their majority vote will be required for any pension cuts to occur.
Second, it will make this vote fair by counting only the ballots that are returned. Unreturned ballots will no longer be counted as a “yes” vote.
Both bills are efforts by our elected representatives to correct a situation before the implementation of pension cuts … cuts that will have a dramatic impact on 3,122 Second District pension plan participants … who work for the 75 companies being affected by Chairman Kline’s initiative … including companies well known to Chairman Kline — Cemstone, YRC, USF Holland, Jack Cooper Transport, ABF Trucking, Dean Foods, Kemps and more.
In Minnesota, the cuts average about 34 percent but range to 50 percent or more.
Worries of how these cuts would impact their constituents, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) along with Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Burr (R-NC), Robert Casey (D-PA), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maisie Hirono (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote the US Treasury to use its authority to ensure to cut benefits do not “place an unfair financial burden on beneficiaries.”
Chairman John Kline has done nothing.
The rally in Washington will follow similar rallies held across the country … including one in St. Paul earlier this month.
The rally already has scheduled bipartisan Members of Congress to speak … after all they are running for re-election … so when Chairman John Kline gives up the gavel, someone new will take over … in the Second District, Angie Craig spoke out advocating protecting pensions at the State Capitol rally … what her Republican challenger will do is unknown … but watch the money coming in from the companies that will benefit by this change for a clue as to how they will act next session.