Law backed by Casey and Biden helps save pensions for thousands of Pennsylvania retirees - TAI News
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Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) speaks during a press conference in Hershey, June 21, 2024. (Screenshot from WHTM/ABC27)

A provision in President Joe Biden’s 2021 pandemic relief law, backed by Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, has helped prevent steep cuts to the pensions of more than 52,000 Pennsylvania workers and retirees. According to the White House, the law has already protected more than 1,000,000 pensions nationwide.

Casey voted for Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which provided funds to reopen schools, authorized relief checks for individuals struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, and cut taxes for working families. Also included in the package was the Casey-backed Butch Lewis Act, which created a federal program to ensure that workers stuck in insolvent pension plans continue to receive the money they are due. 

Republican Senate nominee Dave McCormick, who is challenging Casey in November’s election, strongly opposed Biden’s rescue plan and other investments, accusing Biden and Casey of “reckless spending and inflationary policies.” His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

At a June 21 press conference at the union hall of Chocolate Workers Local No. 464 in Hershey, Casey, White House American Rescue Plan coordinator Gene Sperlin, and members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union highlighted 6,700 workers and retirees from Philadelphia, Hershey, Lancaster, and Muncy whose pensions were spared a 45% cut thanks to the law. 

Many Americans who earned retirement pensions as part of their salaries have seen those plans become insolvent due to corporate bankruptcies and bad investments by the pension funds. Without federal action, their promised lifelong benefits would have been sharply reduced. 

“Millions of workers rely on the pensions they’ve earned, but before we passed the American Rescue Plan, too many retirees faced devastating cuts to their plans,” Casey said. “I fought for this fix because I know how integral pensions are to the futures of thousands of Pennsylvania families, and how scary it was for those families to face the possibility of the rug being pulled out from underneath them. Now, more than 6,700 workers and retirees will have the peace of mind of knowing their hard-earned benefits are theirs to keep.”

Danny Melendez, a retired union worker for Bimbo Bakeries in the Lehigh Valley, called the efforts by Biden, Casey, and other congressional Democrats to pass the law heroic: “Workers like myself dedicated decades of our lives to make food products that hundreds of millions of Americans enjoy every day. Many of my fellow workers worked six, seven days a week. We missed our kids’ birthdays and Little League games, anniversaries and other special events to make sure food made it onto people’s tables. But we did this knowing we were working towards a stable retirement and, through no fault of our own, the rug was pulled out from under us. Saving our pensions literally saved lives. I don’t know what I would have done if my benefits would have been cut by 50%. That’s what the Republicans proposed, and it would have been devastating for millions of retirees, including myself.”

The Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund is the seventh in Pennsylvania to receive relief under the Butch Lewis Act, Casey’s office noted. The Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Pension Fund, the Carpenters Industrial Council Eastern PA Pension Plan, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia Pension Plan, the IUE-CWA Pension Plan, and the National Integrated Group Pension Plan, which includes the United Steelworkers and the United Auto Workers, have also benefited.

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