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Pension reform that could benefit hundreds of thousands of retired union members is
one-step closer to reality after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act on July 24.

Also known as the Butch Lewis Act, the legislation would issue bonds that would finance loans through a new agency under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department to multiemployer pension plans that would be repaid over a 30-year period. No benefit cuts would be required to qualify for the loans.

Union workers took home less pay in their wallets and purses to make sure they had a pension when they retired. Because of corporation mergers, the recession of 2008-09, and other factors, some pension programs are facing critical situations. Media reports have claimed that if too many pensions go under and are turned over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, that body could go bankrupt as well.

Among the MTD affiliates pushing legislators to pass the Butch Lewis Act was the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM).

“After years of tireless work by BCTGM retirees, members, local union officers and international staff, the House today rewarded their efforts by passing this critically important legislation,” stated BCTGM International President David Durkee.

“Congress cannot ignore this issue. We’ve worked hard and made our voices loud and clear. It is the duty of the U.S. Senate to pass this legislation so that America’s workers retain their hard-earned pensions,” Durkee added.

The measure passed with bipartisan support 264-169. It now goes before the Senate.

The BCTGM reported there are more than 300 multiemployer pension plans across the United States.