Democrats noted that the 2021 legislation would save more than 1 million pensions.

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the general election approaches, Democrats are making a strong case to Pennsylvania’s union voters that many workers’ pensions have been preserved as part of a COVID-19 pandemic-era aid package.

The White House announced that the Butch Lewis Act, signed into law in the spring of 2021, would save the pensions of more than 1 million union members and retirees as of Friday.

The legislation, enacted as part of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, would ultimately halt cuts to retirement benefits for 2 million workers and retirees across the country.

The program, named for a retired Ohio truck driver and Teamsters union leader who fought in his later years to prevent major cuts to the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund, established a special financial assistance program through which struggling multiemployer pension plans could apply for assistance from the Pension Guaranty Corporation, a federal agency that protects the retirement income of workers in defined benefit pension plans.

The Butch Lewis Act aims to delay the eventual collapse of approximately 200 multiemployer pension plans for 30 years, with many workers facing up to a 50% reduction in benefits, which will inflict significant financial harm on more than 2 million retired and soon-to-be retired Americans.

Biden administration officials, including Senior Advisor Gene Sperling, and a group of union members from the Bakers, Confectioners, Tobacco and Cereal Mills International Union, along with Sen. Bob Casey, were scheduled to travel to Hershey, Pennsylvania, on Friday to draw attention to the legislation.

Casey, a Democrat, is seeking reelection to the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania against Republican Dave McCormick. The Biden administration is paying particular attention to the battleground state of Pennsylvania as the president seeks reelection, hoping to boost voter turnout among union members.

“Whether it’s Social Security, Medicare or a pension, workers who have earned a dignified retirement through decades of hard work and sacrifice should never have their benefits cut because of broken promises or policies that favor the wealthy over working families,” Biden said in a statement.

Presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump won the support of blue-collar workers when he won the 2016 election, and this year he is trying to exploit the divide between union leaders who backed the Democratic candidate and rank-and-file union members who might be swayed to vote Republican.

Rita Lewis, the widow of Butch Lewis, told The Associated Press that before the law was passed, union retirees she knew were “talking about having to sell their homes and move in with their kids.”

Lewis, who lives in West Chester, Ohio, and receives a restored income from her late husband’s pension, said she plans to vote for Biden in November because he has kept his promises to workers.

“President Biden and the Democrats have done exactly what they promised to do to restore pensions,” she said.

In 2016, she led a protest outside the Capitol building calling for the passage of the Butch Lewis Act, saying, “A promise is a promise.”

Many multiemployer pension plans faced funding shortfalls during and after the Great Recession, when the plans had many more retirees than active workers. Corporate bankruptcies, withdrawals from pension plans, and investment losses from the stock market crashes of 2001 and 2008 led to significant declines in plan funding, according to the nonprofit Pension Rights Center.

While some workers’ pensions have been restored, there are still workers whose retirement benefits were cut during the Great Recession and whose pensions have not been restored.

For example, an estimated 20,000 workers at Delphi, a subsidiary of General Motors, have been fighting for the past 15 years to recover what they lost after General Motors filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The company has said it will not assume the pension liabilities of Delphi’s full-time employees, unlike its union members. The matter went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected their appeal, denying the retirees their last legal remedy.

They are pushing for passage of the Susan Muffley Act, which would restore their benefits similar to the Butch Lewis Act, and is supported by the White House.

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