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Brown Briefs Teamsters, Trades on a Special Committee to Try to Save Their Pensions

Photo of Brown and Walden
WKSU public radio
Sherrod Brown listens to Mike Walden, president of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions, during a gathering of more than a 100 Teasters and other union workers and retirees.

More than 100 Teamsters and other union retirees and active members crowded into a union hall in Canton this morning to get an update from Sen. Sherrod Brown on what it may take to save their pensions. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the crisis that could affect 60,000 Ohioans and a million-and-a-half workers and retirees.

“The longer we wait," Brown maintained, "the harder it is because companies bail out..."

Teamsters retirees and active workers meet with Brown
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU public radio
WKSU public radio
The Teamsters were joined by representatives of pipefitters and others who worked for multiple employers who paid into single pension funds. One reason the funds are running low is that trucking deregulation led to bankruptcy, early retirements and layoffs by many trucking companies based in Ohio.

Brown was appointed last week to co-chair an unusual joint committee of the House and Senate. By the end of the year, it’s charged with coming up with a way to restore the precarious finances of what are called multi-employer pensions for groups like the Teamsters, mineworkers and carpenters.

Brown has been pushing a fix called the Butch Lewis Act, which would provide a low-interest, 30-year loan to the pensions. Though the union hall was filled with Butch Lewis signs and shirts, Brown acknowledged uncertainty.

“I don’t have preconceived notions on what we end up with. I’d love to end up with Butch Lewis, I think that’s the best idea. But I also understand we’ve got to get five Republican and five Democratic votes.”

The 16-member committee is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. If it gets the bipartisan deal from at least 10 of them, the measure will go to the full House and Senate for a straight up-or-down vote.

M.L. Schultze is a freelance journalist. She spent 25 years at The Repository in Canton where she was managing editor for nearly a decade, then served as WKSU's news director and digital editor until her retirement.