How the American Rescue Plan protects workers and pensions
Every American deserves a job which pays well with benefits and a secure retirement. But the failure of Donald Trump to combat the coronavirus set the American dream further out of reach and four years under Republican policies which lined the pockets of the wealthy and did nothing to resolve the pension problem which affects hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees did not help either. But while these last four years were a dark era in history, hope is finally on the horizon thanks to President Biden and his American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law last week.
More than one million workers and retirees in the country were facing the prospect of losing the promised benefits they earned in a lifetime of work if multiemployer pensions were allowed to fail. The American Rescue Plan will not only help us end the pandemic and get people back on the job, it will keep these plans solvent and funded for 30 years with no cuts to the earned benefits of participants and beneficiaries. It will also restore total benefits for retirees in plans that previously had to take cuts and hike the maximum insurance amount for the private sector pensions.
The people who will benefit from this pension fix are our friends, families, and neighbors, who have worked day and night to build their lives with a secure retirement. They are the brick layers in Ohio and the auto workers out in Michigan. They are the truck drivers in Illinois and the construction workers in Arizona. Over 150,000 people stand to benefit in Pennsylvania. Thanks to President Biden, the American dream is now reality.
The American Rescue Plan also serves as a reminder of the difference one election can make. The Democrats in the administration of Barack Obama worked hard for a solution to this crisis, but Republicans refused to come to the table. I know this because as the labor secretary, I was one of those trying hard to assist these retirees. Had Democrats not held their majority in the House and flipped the Senate in November, hundreds of thousands of workers would continue to have their pensions at risk. The retirees who have endured benefit cuts would not have been made whole.
Despite broad bipartisan support from voters, the American Rescue Plan passed by one vote in face of unanimous opposition from Republicans in the Senate. So that very slim margin underscores why the 2022 midterm elections will be so important, and those of us who believe we must keep up the fight for workers must do our part. If we want to continue to enact real changes like the American Rescue Plan, we must hold onto the seats we had secured in 2020 and secure further victories in 2022.
I will fight like hell every day to make sure voters know who is fighting for them. Working families are counting on us, so we must be ready to make sure that people everywhere know who is responsible for enacting these policies that help workers and unions. The answer is President Biden and Democrats in Congress. That is how we will build power for workers and how we will do even more for the people of this great country.
As labor secretary, I had the chance to work with Joe Biden. Believe me when I tell you workers could not have a better friend or stronger ally in the White House, be they those workers trying to form unions or retirees trying to have dignity. President Biden said in his inaugural address, “We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all.” The American Rescue Plan will help do that. With his leadership, we will end this pandemic, preserve the pensions workers have earned, and secure a far brighter future for people across the country.
Tom Perez is the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who served as head of the civil rights division for the Justice Department and as secretary of the Labor Department under President Obama. He is now a chairman of American Bridge 21st Century. He tweets @TomPerez.
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