For Immediate Release March 14, 2018
Blue Collar Swing Voters Are the New (Old) Soccer Moms, Workers and Retirees Anxious about Pension Crisis Looking for Congressional Action
Uniontown, Pennsylvania – As political observers across the nation try to parse the results of last night’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District for clues to upcoming midterm contests, one issue that clearly stands out is solving the multi-employer pension crisis. PA-18 demonstrates that voters who fear for retirement security will blur partisan lines to support candidates they believe have their backs.
News accounts have documented a sharp division between the winner in the PA-18 contest, Conor Lamb, and his opponent, Rep. Rick Saccone, on addressing the pension crisis. Saccone ducked the issue when asked to address it by reporters, preferring to eat ice cream rather than answer whether he supported the American Miners’ Protection Act. Lamb and his surrogates, including United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts, by contrast, have made solving the pension crisis a central issue.
“You elect this man to Congress, and you won’t have to lobby him one minute,” said Roberts at a recent campaign rally for Lamb. “He’s for your pensions, he’s for your union, he’s for your health care. This is a ‘yes’ vote.”
In the wake of Lamb’s victory last night, Roberts noted that, “a lot of our members who didn’t vote in the last election or voted for President Trump came out and voted for the one candidate who was clear about standing up for their pensions and their retirement security. They may still agree with the President about a lot of things, but they know that if they lose their pension they will be scrambling just to survive. All the other things any politician is doing or saying fall by the wayside when a person is in survival mode.”
The looming pension crisis is not just a Pennsylvania or a coal miner issue. More than 1.5 million workers and retirees concentrated in key swing states – including Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia and Wisconsin – now face the possibility of losing their long-promised pensions due to pending insolvency of multiemployer pension funds. Millions more workers across the country may also lose their pensions without a long-term funding solution.
As part of a budget agreement reached last month, the U.S. House and Senate tasked a bipartisan 16-member select committee with crafting a solution to the funding crisis for stressed multiemployer pensions covering retirees and workers employed in mining, trucking, warehousing, commercial baking and other industries.
“There are tens of thousands of Teamsters and Mine Workers and Bakery and Confectionery workers and Carpenters that will see huge cuts in their pensions, and they start pretty soon,” Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told Politico last December. “It’s not just fixing it and getting it done because the economics and the math get worse and worse. It’s because of what it does to families.”
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in February summed it up this way, “Over the past several years, I’ve consistently made clear to my colleagues that there is a looming multiemployer pension crisis in America, and responsible reforms are needed to protect retiree benefits, ensure the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and allow participating employers to remain competitive…we must put politics aside and find a workable solution.”