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Biden in Ohio highlights efforts to save union pensions

WASHINGTON – Calming frustrated worker votersPresident Joe Biden visited Ohio’s iron workers on Wednesday to highlight federal action to bolster troubled pension funding for millions who are now in work or retired — and to make his policy stance that he supports workers in the White House used.

Biden’s speech at a Cleveland high school revealed one final rule tied to his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last year. The rule makes it possible to financially rehabilitate struggling pensions from several companies and ensure full benefits for 2 million to 3 million workers and retirees.

Politically hurt by inflation at a 40-year high and brought on by the pandemic, the President chose to deliver his message in a state that’s heavily Republican-leaning, with Donald Trump easily carrying it twice. On his sixth visit as president, Biden attempted to personally reverse that election tide, touting the rule of supporting multi-company pensions as one of the most significant efforts to support union workers’ pension funds in the past 50 years.

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“A lot of politicians like to talk about how they’re going to do something about it,” Biden said. “Well, I’m here today to say we’ve done something about it.”

“We turn a broken promise into a promise kept.”

The approximately 200 subsidized pension funds were threatened with insolvency without state aid. And without full benefits, workers and retirees could struggle to pay for housing, food and other essentials. The financial support is intended to help keep the pension funds solvent for around 30 years until 2051.

That’s important, said several retirees.

Bill DeVito, who introduced Biden, said “it was devastating” when his pension was cut by 40 percent in 2017 after spending his life as an iron worker.

“The thing is, over the years we’ve had a lot of politicians say, ‘Hey, we’re going to try to help you, we’re going to do everything we can, and no one ever did anything for us until Joe Biden shows up .” said DeVito, 73. He said other Ohio Democrats in Washington also continued to push.

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Jeffrey Carlson, 67, of North Ridgeville, a suburb of Cleveland, said he learned a year before he retired in 2017 that his pension would also be reduced.

“I’m grateful for everything we were able to get back,” he said. “I know I deserve it. I’ve worked hard.”

Multi-employer plans are created through agreements between companies and a union and are insured by the Federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). In 2014, Congress passed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act, which for the first time allowed plans to cut employee and retiree benefits to ensure that pensions that ran out of money remained solvent.

The American Rescue Plan, approved in March 2021, included a special financial assistance program that allows troubled multi-employer pension plans to apply to the PBGC for assistance. The final rule, presented by the Biden administration, aims to make it easier for retirement investments to generate a higher return.

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Efforts to highlight a program to support union workers come as Democrats hope to win a seat in the US Senate in Ohio, where a strong showing among working-class voters could play a crucial role.

Republican Rob Portman is leaving the Senate after two terms. Contending to succeed him are Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican JD Vance, author of the memoir Hillbilly Elegy, who clinched confirmation from Trump during the primary. Ohio voters backed Trump in 2016 and 2020 with a victory margin of about 8 percentage points each.

As a sign of Biden’s standing in the state, Ryan did not appear with him at Wednesday’s event, but White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration is “notably in close contact with Congressman Tim Ryan.” In his speech, Biden referred to Ryan’s absence and described him as the “future” US Senator from Ohio.

A veteran Democratic lawmaker who was in attendance, Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, praised Biden for paying attention to American workers’ pensions.

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“People say, ‘Marcy, why are you staying in the house?’ For that reason,” Kaptur said. She added, “The former president – the Donald – did nothing.”

Biden also sharply criticized his predecessor and “Trumpers” in Congress, who continue to support the former president’s agenda. He accused them of blocking efforts to lower prescription drug prices and fight rising inflation, and attacked them with proposals to require Congress to reauthorize Medicare and Social Security and raise taxes for some low-income Americans .

“That’s why elections have consequences,” said Biden, referring to the midterm elections in November. “That’s why they’re important. And that’s why what we’re doing here is so important.”

While Biden boasts of steady job growth — unemployment stands at 3.6% — Americans have been largely unhappy with the Democratic president’s handling of the economy as inflation continues to rise, interest rates rise and the stock market wobbles. According to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released last week, just 28 percent support Biden’s responsibility for the economy, up from 51 percent a year ago.

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Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who was present with Biden, made his own pitch that the President has delivered to American workers.

“I just want you to understand that this president that we have right now is the most pro-working class president in American history,” he said.

Biden concluded his remarks with an appeal to working-class voters, who helped send him to the White House.

“There’s nowhere else I want to be than right here with the workers in this space and the workers who built America,” Biden said. “I see you. I hear you and I will always have your back.”

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Josh Boak reported from Washington; AP reporter Julie Carr Smyth contributed from Columbus, Ohio.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/07/06/biden-heading-to-ohio-to-spotlight-rule-to-rescue-pensions/ Biden in Ohio highlights efforts to save union pensions

Sarah Y. Kim

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