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Thousands gather at Statehouse for rally to save pensions

You’ve worked hard and played by the rules and at the last minute, the goal post is moved.  All people want is what they have worked for and what was promised – a pension they can count on to retire in dignity and security. 

So said a crowd of thousands who gathered at the Ohio Statehouse to call on their elected representatives — both in Columbus and Washington — to save their dwindling pension funds.

The massive crowd gathered for a rally ahead of a rare Congressional field hearing at the Statehouse the next day. The hearing included Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a key part of a joint congressional committee tasked with solving the mounting pension crisis affecting the pensions of about 1.3 million private sector retirees and active workers.

They belong to multi-employer pension plans, including the massive Central States Pension Fund for Teamsters, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Iron Workers Local 17 Pension Plan and hundreds of other plans which are on the brink of failure.

“Public employees are wrong if they think this doesn’t affect their public employee pensions like OPERS and SERS,” said AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Political and Legislative Director Robert Davis.

“Those pension dollars go right back into the economy. If the retirees can’t pay their bills it will slow down the economy and make it harder for public employers to keep up their constitutions to our public pensions,” Davis said.

The hearing at the Statehouse was the fifth on the pension crisis, but the first one outside of Washington, D.C. Ohio was chosen because it is among the states with the most pensions at risk. 

Sen. Brown proposed the Butch Lewis Act that many in attendance supported, but it failed to get bipartisan support. That bill would have created a low-interest, 30-year federal loan to troubled pension plans, with no cuts to retirees’ benefits.  Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is also on the bipartisan committee.

By the end of July, the committee will finish its hearings and work toward crafting a solution.  Any solution must be approved by five out of eight members of each party on the committee, then pass both the House and the Senate by an up-or-down vote, with no amendments allowed to be added.

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