South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for being here. And I apologize for my back talking to you. My mother would give me hell if I did that. But, Ken, thanks for the introduction and for representing your brothers and sisters in organized labor and – who always, always get the job done.
While you — even though you can’t — even though they can’t be here today, I want to thank Schumer — Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, Senators Brown, Patty Murray, Ron Wyden for their leadership on this issue as well.
And I would like to thank all the members here:
Richie, it’s good to see you, friend — and who head the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and have seen this legislation and — all the way through and seen it.
And, Tammy Baldwin, she’s a little prejudiced about your position and about this country that you represent.
Tina Smith, Rep. Bobby Scott, Marcy Kaptur — great friend, and Frank Mrvan: Thank you all for being here.
And special thanks to Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Teamster General President Sean O’Brien, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler for believing what I believe: that the middle class built America and the unions built the middle class.
We all know that the middle class has taken quite a hit in recent years. Unions were under attack. We had an economy – an economy that didn’t seem to work enough – work enough for working people.
The pandemic made things much worse, and that’s when I signed the US bailout plan to provide economic assistance to the people who needed it and needed it the most, keeping tens of thousands of police and firemen, teachers, first responders on the job as government revenue have dried up in all 50 states during the pandemic.
With America’s rescue plan, we laid the foundations for an economy built from the bottom up and from the middle. I’m – the press is sick of hearing this, but, you know, when the poor rank high and the middle class prospers, the rich do very well. Everyone benefits. A trickle down does not usually lead to the bottom.
One of the big ways we did that was by including the Butch Lewis Act, which supported pension plans for millions of union workers and represents the most significant investment in retirement security for union workers and retirees in 50 years.
I went to Cleveland this summer to announce how we’re going to get it done—get it going and get it done.
More than $80 billion to preserve insolvent multiemployer pension plans for union workers and retirees for decades to come.
And today, my administration is announcing that $36 billion of that money has been earmarked — to prevent drastic cuts to workers’ hard-earned pensions — cuts planned over the next few years. That won’t happen. There will be no cuts. (Applause.)
And here’s what that means. For years and years, union workers have been driving trucks from factories to stores, bagging groceries, building the buildings, bridges, and roads that they use—that we use every day, and so much more.
I just want to pause for a second and say, you know, imagine if you’re not a union worker, you have a good job, you retire — right before retirement, and you find out that your pension plan is going to be cut by 60 percent. Imagine what that does. Imagine what that does to you.
They are truck drivers, warehouse workers, iron workers, masons, carpenters, laborers, plumbers, musicians, food workers and many others.
Many companies are not willing or able to implement their own pension plans, and in some industries workers may be employed by several different employers over time.
Therefore, companies in the same industry, in cooperation with the unions that represent their employees, often join together and create multi-employer pension plans. These plans serve 11 million workers and retirees across our country.
And with every paycheck they earn, their employers put money into a retirement plan. Like many Americans, they are working hard today to secure tomorrow’s retirement.
But over the years, due to changing economic trends, persistent attacks on unions, more than 200 – more than 200 of these plans have seen more employers face possible insolvency. This meant that 2 to 3 million workers through no fault of their own – they were holding up their end of the bargain – faced painful cuts to the benefits they were counting on when they retired.
Think about it: for 30, 40, 50 years you work hard every day to provide for your family. You are doing everything right. You track every dollar of that paycheck for groceries, for mortgages. You need every penny. And even though you know that the pension you’ve earned will be there when it’s time to retire – that security.
But then imagine losing half of that pension or more through no fault of your own. You’ve done your part. You have paid. Imagine what that does to your peace of mind financially, what it does to your dignity. Your dignity. Because you counted on not having to rely on anyone for your retirement. It’s about dignity.
You’ve heard me say it before, my father used to say it: A job is much more than a paycheck; it’s about your dignity. It’s about being able to look your child in the eye and say, “Everything—it’s going to be okay, baby.” Just simple dignity.
And then you realize it’s not going to happen. I wouldn’t have that pension.
So with America’s rescue plan, we included the Butch Lewis Act—named after a military veteran and true champion of union workers—to protect the pensions you’ve all worked so hard for, the pensions you’ve sacrificed to secure.
And today, my administration is announcing the largest single appropriation of funds from the Butch Lewis Act: $36 billion to cover — (applause) — to cover more than 1,000 employers, 350,000 union workers and retirees.
Those union workers and retirees face up to a 60 percent cut in their benefits, starting in the next few years, if they don’t act. That means some would lose $10,000 each year of their retirement. That’s how much they would lose each year of their retirement – the money they earned.
Instead, thanks to today’s announcement, tens of thousands of union retirees and workers in states like Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri can go to bed tonight knowing that their hard-earned pension will available. when they need it.
So I want to thank everyone at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation who is working so hard to make this program work, including the director who is here today. Thanks, Gordon, for being here. I really appreciate your work and being here.
This is important — (applause) — this is important for workers. But every time I say, “This is important for workers,” I think: This is important for their spouses, this is important for their children, this is important for their mothers and fathers who they care for. It’s important. It’s important. It is important for their families. It is important for the country.
And let me end with this. I stood for restoring the backbone of this country: the middle class, the unions. And for the last two years we have been doing just that. Americans work. The economy is growing. And incomes are growing faster than inflation.
And earlier this year I was in Phoenix to announce a $40 billion investment in two semiconductor plants, with thousands of union workers helping to build those plants. And our plan is to build the economy from the bottom up and in the middle, and it’s working. It works.
As I said, my father used to say: The salary is much more than – you know, it’s about your dignity. It’s about your place in the community. It’s about — it’s about everything you’ve worked for.
You know, the fact is that we’re in a situation where it’s about defining retirement — a dignified retirement in the home and community that you’ve worked and lived in and you don’t have to leave.
So thank you, today for — thanks to today’s announcement, hundreds of thousands of Americans can feel that sense of dignity again, knowing that they’ve provided for their families in the future and that it’s safe.
So God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)