IBEW-Backed Law Helps Save NY Local’s Pension Plan

IBEW-Backed Law Helps Save NY Local’s Pension Plan

Thanks to a local’s determination and an IBEW-backed law, IBEW members in Niagara Falls, NY, can look forward to the full retirement they worked for.  In other words, Local 237’s pensions are safe.

Thus wasn’t always true. The industries in 237’s jurisdiction were hollowed out over the past two decades, leaving 237’s leadership in a bind. Nothing seemed to stop the downward spiral, and by 2019, only two options were left: let the fund go bankrupt or make serious cuts.

“It was a terrible feeling,” said 237 Business Manager John Scherrer.  “If our pension would’ve went away, our local would’ve went away.”

First, the local applied for assistance through the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act. Assistance meant suspending benefits to avoid bankruptcy. “It hurt all the way around,” said Local 237 retiree David Naus about the 25% cut in benefits. 

For retiree David Saph, a third-generation IBEW member and Air Force veteran, the cuts meant having to sell his house.

“When I was young, I didn’t know what a pension was,” said Saph.  Now I understand without a pension, you’re going nowhere.”

Enter the American Rescue Plan. President Biden’s pandemic relief bill included the IBEW-backed Butch Lewis Act. It offered major relief to multiemployer pensions.

Because of the Butch Lewis Act, Local 237 got the financial assistance they needed without hurting the fund down the road. The $32 million put their pension back on track while also paying back retirees who had taken cuts.

“It’s our money,” Manzi said. “You gotta pay the people that are retired.”

As much as the ARP has done for working Americans, the law passed without a single Republican voting for it. It’s something business manager Scherrer reminds his members.

“President Biden saved the most important thing — our pension,” said Scherrer of how President Biden pushed for the pension provision in the ARP.

Many retirees agree, including Naus, who sat on the pension board. “They’ve all helped us,” Naus said of Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Rep. Brian Higgins, another New York Democrat. They helped get  the bill through Congress.

Pensions aren’t the only thing that 237 has to be excited about. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the Chips Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, multiple large projects have broken ground, with more coming. Job prospects will be strong for Local 237 for years.

That’s great news for young workers especially. The local’s fund is earning more money than predicted and that’s bringing in more apprentices than expected, too.  They’ve even got a new training center for the next generation of members.

“The work is the best I’ve seen in my whole career,” said Scherrer. He started as an apprentice in 1995. “We definitely have a bright future. I got no worries now.”

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