COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Thousands of union workers rallied at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday to pressure lawmakers to protect pension plans at risk of failing. The workers said they wanted Congress to pass pending legislation to strengthen those pension funds.
“We worked a lot of years to get this pension, not just us but the other workers, the Teamsters and those people,” said retired miner Vincent Lucido. “This is important. This is why you work so you can enjoy your retirement.”
Lucido’s pension plan isn’t guaranteed to last the rest of his life.
“With our age, where are you going to find another job? Probably Walmart wouldn’t even hire us,” he said.
Several Ohio pension plans are on the brink of failure according to Sen. Sherrod Brown. Some have already cut benefits.
“It’s what we look forward to,” said Perry Rapier, a union worker from Pennsylvania. “We’ve worked and sweat and toiled into this position and we’ve earned that and now to know that somebody that’s sitting behind a desk is willing to take that from us, we’re going to stand up and fight for that.”
Roughly 1.3 million Americans are part of a pension plan at risk of failing. Many of those have been insured by the federal government so taxpayers could be on the hook.
“There’s many guys here who, as far as the mines, have 30, 40 years in the mines,” Lucido said. “That’s a lot of time to put in to see it maybe disappear.”
Sen. Brown said he has a bill to turn some troubled pension plans into loan programs.
“I’m open to anything,” Brown said. “I want to make sure this is fixed. I want to make sure that pensioners don’t get big hits to their pensions which they’ll get if we don’t do anything.”
Brown and Sen. Rob Portman will hold a hearing at the Ohio Statehouse Friday on the pension problems. It’s part of a series of hearings away from Washington where workers will be able to speak directly to lawmakers.
Portman sent the following statement about the rally:
“I applaud all of the workers and retirees who are making their voices heard today and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s hearing to hear directly from impacted pension participants and small employers. Over the past several years, I’ve consistently said that there is a looming multiemployer pension crisis in America, and responsible reforms are needed to protect retiree benefits, ensure the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and allow participating employers to remain competitive. This is a crisis, so we should put politics aside, seize this opportunity, and find a workable solution.”