Although it may have nothing to do with COVID, Democrats have solved one of unions’ biggest dilemmas: It bailed out their failing pension funds.
With hundreds of union multi-employer pensions headed for insolvency, Democrats in Washington included a huge gift to union pension plan trustees as part of the sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-related stimulus plan that passed on Wednesday.
As the New York Times reported over the weekend:
“Tucked inside the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that cleared the Senate on Saturday is an $86 billion aid package that has nothing to do with the pandemic.”
“Rather, the $86 billion is a taxpayer bailout for about 185 union pension plans that are so close to collapse that without the rescue, more than a million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.”
As the bill heads to President Biden’s desk on Friday, unions are thrilled.
“I couldn’t be more pleased by the House’s vote to pass this COVID relief package containing a pension fix after years of tireless work by members, retirees and union officials,” the Teamsters’ president, James P. Hoffa, stated in a press release.
“Members decided that pension reform should be the union’s top priority heading into the 2020 election,” Hoffa said. “They then worked hard to elect President Biden and other lawmakers who would get that done. Now we see the results of that effort. It’s promises made, promises kept.”
— LIUNA (@LIUNA) March 10, 2021
“To say that we are ecstatic is an understatement,” said Karen Friedman, Executive Director of the Pension Rights Center. “We have worked with grassroots activists and allied organizations for eight long years to push for a solution to the multiemployer crisis and we are now breathing a long sigh of relief that finally, finally Congress has acted to save their promised benefits. This is a historic day.”
Not everyone pleased.
Although unions have resolved a decades-old problem with the bailout, not everyone is pleased.
— Senator Bill Hagerty (@SenatorHagerty) March 4, 2021
Surprisingly, the editorial board at the Washington Post was critical of having a pension bailout included in the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief plan, stating:
“Difficult as the multiemployer plans’ difficulties are, they have a few years of solvency left, time enough to craft a more financially balanced fix through regular order rather than the party-line method of reconciliation.”