- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), a trade group representing 4,500 business owners, appreciates The Washington Times’ focusing needed attention on the pension crisis in our country. However, in our view, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota Democrat, should be congratulated for tackling a difficult public policy issue that too often is ignored and unappreciated on Capitol Hill and in the media. We encourage greater media attention on how Congress, using the tax code, could expand pension coverage to a greater number of American workers than the small and shrinking number with quality pension coverage today.

However, we regret the views put forth by F. Vincent Vernuccio and Jeremy Lott, whose biased, anti-labor commentary contained errors and misrepresentations regarding pension policy (“Pomeroy’s lucre for labor,” Opinion, Oct. 5). Their offering of political propaganda masquerading as policy analysis serves only to confuse readers rather than address a pension crisis born of a stock-market collapse that devastated all defined pension plans - single and multiemployer.

We think your readers would benefit from the facts that were omitted from Mr. Vernuccio and Mr. Lott’s Op-Ed column.

Multiemployer plans have experienced far fewer plan failures than have single-employer plans. Unlike single-employer plans, when a contributing multiemployer plan participant fails, the remaining employers - not the taxpayer or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) - pick up the failed employer’s liability.

Multiemployer plans are managed jointly and regulated by management and labor trustees, not by unions.

Multiemployer plans are set up pursuant to collective-bargaining agreements by unrelated parties, generally within a common industry. This enables small employers to afford pensions for workers because pension contributions are based on “hours worked.”

Proposed increases in maximum benefits would be paid for by increased premiums from the plans to the PBGC and available only if a plan fails. Benefits would go only to participants with more than 30 years of service. The Vernuccio-Lott column conveniently failed to note that the current multiemployer individual pensioner guarantee is limited to a meager $12,780 with a single-employer individual guarantee of $54,000.

Mr. Pomeroy should be appreciated for introducing his pension legislation in response to urgent pleas from thousands of contributing employers seeking relief from the recession-led stock-market collapse. Our employers providing pension benefits for their work force appreciate Mr. Pomeroy’s hard work on pension issues and regret that the column ridiculed the congressman for his efforts to avoid greater costs to government budgets if tens of thousands of workers lose their retirement benefits and need public assistance for their retirement years.


Chief executive officer



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