Douglas P. Nelson, Business Manager
President Signs the Butch Lewis Act: A Key IBEW Victory
President Biden has signed the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act, one of the IBEW’s biggest legislative priorities.
With Biden’s signature, help is on the way for troubled pension plans and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The new law also provides temporary relief for single and multiemployer plans in good standing, including IBEW plans like the National Electrical Benefit Fund. It accomplishes this with no reductions in benefits for participants.
During debate, every Republican senator (led by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, lead author of the Grassley-Alexander white paper) voted in favor of pulling the pension language out of the bill it was attached to. Democrats unified against the gambit, voting it down 50-49.
“The Democrats are standing up and moving on issues that matter,” said Austin Keyser, director of the IBEW Political & Legislative Affairs Department.
President Stephenson and Secretary-Treasurer Kenny Cooper remained steadfast and withstood significant pressure to bargain away guarantees in the Butch Lewis Act. Instead, the IBEW benefited when Republicans lost their slim advantage in the Senate.
“They tried to eliminate the defined pension benefit system,” Stephenson said. “We worked hard to change the negotiating table.”
“So many people said, ‘This is not going to happen,’” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who sponsored the Butch Lewis Act and championed the issue for five years. “We knew that [Americans] would keep fighting, and we did it.”