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UFCW: Retirement of Millions of Americans Threatened by New Congressional Pension Proposal

December 3, 2019 Updated: August 24, 2020

America’s Largest Private Sector Union Says Congress Must Reject Plan that Reduces Current Benefits and Jeopardizes Pensions for Future Retirees 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), announced its opposition to a multiemployer pensions proposal from U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander. UFCW President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Millions of American workers – union and nonunion – would have their retirement thrown into chaos if this plan passes. Not only would it cause a massive reduction in current pension benefits, it will recklessly endanger the pensions of future retirees across the country. After a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice, workers should be able to retire with dignity and the security of knowing they can provide for themselves and their loved ones.

“Congress must pass the bipartisan Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act to protect these pensions before the crisis becomes even more costly and widespread. The retirement security for millions of workers and their families is on the line. We cannot wait any longer.”

Grassley Pensions Plan Impact on American Workers’ Retirement Security

This proposal, if implemented, will severely harm healthy defined benefit multiemployer plans, and will put millions of participants’ pension plans at risk.

  • The proposed PBGC premiums and new retiree and stakeholder copayments will place tremendous burdens on healthy plans, unnecessarily punish the stakeholders, and disproportionately impact plans with lower contribution rates.
  • The proposed changes to the calculations used to value liabilities are inappropriate, logically inconsistent, and will overstate the value of liabilities significantly, causing extreme harm to plans that are currently healthy.
  • Proposed changes to withdrawal liability provisions will very likely decrease withdrawal liability amounts, meaning that many employers who withdraw from plans will not be required to pay their fair share, exacerbating the already-existing financial strain faced by these plans.
  • Proposed governance changes will be harmful to plans’ continued existence and do not address the underlying causes of the problem that Congress is trying to solve.
  • Proposed restrictions on benefit improvements in healthy plans are inappropriate.
  • The creation of “Composite Plans” would legalize a new plan structure that would shift investment risk from employers to workers.

UFCW Call for Action on Multiemployer Pensions

UFCW has been a strong national advocate for pensions reform and is calling for Congress to pass H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act. Last year, UFCW sent a letter to Congress urging action on legislation to provide low-cost loans to eligible multiemployer pension plans to enable them to continue to pay earned pensions to retirees and fund their long-term pension commitments.

Why Congress Must Pass the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act:

The Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act is a common-sense way to shore up the multiemployer plans while protecting the earned pensions of retirees and active workers.

  • An estimated 10 million workers and retirees are in about 1,400 multiemployer pension plans. (PBGC)
  • The failure of pension plans would hurt not only individual retirees, but also their local communities, the plans’ contributing employers and the future of the multiemployer retirement system overall.

The Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act provides a path forward to address the country’s growing pension crisis by providing the financial support the plans need to avoid insolvency.

  • If nothing is done, some troubled plans will fail and retirees will face massive cuts to the benefits they earned over decades of work.
  • If the plans are allowed to fail, not only will they no longer be able to pay promised benefits, but taxpayers would be at risk of having to pay billions to cover the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) shortfall.

The Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act would create a Pension Rehabilitation Administration, within the Treasury Department, to provide low-cost loans to qualified underfunded multiemployer pension plans.

  • Plans would have up to 30 years to pay earned retiree benefits, prudently invest the loan proceeds and employer contributions, and re-pay the loan.
  • During the loan period, employers may not reduce contributions and the plan may not increase promised benefits.
  • The plan must demonstrate that receipt of the loan will enable the plan to avoid insolvency, pay benefits and loan interest, and accumulate sufficient funds to repay the loan principal when due.



The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

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