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Hybrid plans at heart of proposed multiemployer pension system reform

U.S. Representatives Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) and Donald Norcross (D-NJ) present their Give Retirement Options to Workers (GROW) Act as a bipartisan effort designed to modernize, strengthen and safeguard the multiemployer pension plan system for the future.

Central to the bill they are cosponsoring is a new type of retirement option combining key defined benefit and defined contribution plan features: Workers will still receive lifetime income, while benefits they have earned under a traditional multiemployer plan are protected even after funds are shifted into a “composite” plan. The GROW Act would eliminate the uncertainty and volatility employers currently face in the multiemployer pension system; limit their risk; and, authorize them to negotiate a fixed contribution rate.

Ultimately, the lawmakers contend, the GROW Act enables trustees to maintain pension plan solvency; offers a fiscally responsible way forward; and, should be an integral part of larger multiemployer pension system reforms. “For decades, families have relied on multiemployer pension plans for retirement, but the multiemployer pension system as currently structured is irreparably broken,” says Congressman Roe. “The structure makes it more difficult for employees and employers to modernize their systems to provide the retirement security necessary for hardworking Americans.

“This important, bipartisan proposal is widely supported by retirement security advocates and will provide a new vehicle for retirement savings,” Roe continues. “This plan will create a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario for employers and employees, and I look forward to working to ensure composite plans are a key reform adopted to ensure the multiemployer pension system is around for future retirees.”

“Millions of workers deserve a safe, secure retirement and, at the same time, employers deserve predictability and flexibility without excess liability. By focusing on the partnership between employees and employers, our bipartisan solution combines key features of defined benefit and defined contribution plans and is a win-win-win for employees, employers and our economy as a whole,” adds Representative Norcross, an electrician by trade and 37-year multiemployer pension plan participant. “The GROW Act offers another tool in the toolbox for workers to grow their retirement savings and employers to grow their businesses.”

The Roe-Norcross bill follows the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, which established a new process to propose a temporary or permanent reduction of pension benefits if a plan is projected to run out of money before paying all promised benefits. Kline-Miller requires the Treasury Department, in consultation with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and Department of Labor, to review a multiemployer pension plan’s application to reduce benefits and determine whether it meets the requirements set by Congress.

BUILDERS RENEW PLA PLEA

Associated Builders & Contractors and a coalition of construction and business associations continue to urge President Donald Trump to eliminate government-mandated project labor agreements (PLA) on federal and federally assisted projects.

A letter to the White House is the groups’ latest appeal for President Trump to a) rescind his predecessor’s Executive Order 13502, which encourages federal agencies to require PLA on federal contracts to build projects of $25 million or more on a case-by-case basis; and, b) replace it with Executive Orders 13202 and 13208, which prohibit such agreements from being required on federal and federally assisted construction projects. The coalition calls for “regulatory reform to create a level playing field in the procurement of government construction contracts, increase competition, help small businesses grow, curb construction costs and spread the job-creating benefits of federally funded contracts throughout the entire construction industry.”

“The industry faces a skilled labor shortage of almost 500,000 people. If [it] grows at a modest two to three percent rate over the next few years and an infrastructure bill resulting in an additional $1 trillion worth of construction is added into the equation, the industry could need to fill an additional one million more jobs as early as 2020,” the coalition contends. “Therefore, it makes little sense to continue a policy that artificially restricts the vast majority of skilled American labor and qualified contractors from competing to deliver to taxpayers the best possible product at the best possible price.”

“If the Trump Administration creates an inclusive policy so all Americans and all qualified companies can make America’s infrastructure great again, it would be a win-win for taxpayers and the U.S. economy,” affirms ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck.