Washington, D.C. -- House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats joined the Campaign for Americas Future and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney at a news conference this morning to call for real pension reform. The Republican leadership wants to bring to the House floor today a resolution urging the Senate to approve the House-passed bill, which would encourage corporations to renege on their obligations to provide pension coverage to low-wage and middle-level employees, while still providing lavish pension benefits to their highest paid employees. The following is a statement by House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):
"Our nations economy cannot move forward when its workers cannot forecast their own economic futures. The financial debacles that began with Enron -and continue to unfold today - make clear the need for reform of the pension system.
"In going forward with this effort, I would remind colleagues of an oath written for doctors but just as salient for elected officials: First, do no harm. By the standards of the Hippocratic oath, House Republicans committed the equivalent of legislative malpractice when they passed their so-called pension reform bill this spring.
"Their legislation actually weakens current law protecting employee pensions and opens dangerous new loopholes. For example, the Republican bill permits self-interested investment firms to be the principal financial advisors to employees. The Republican bill also fails to give employees a seat at the table of pension boards and does not require executives to subject their pensions to the same risk employees face when a company experiences significant financial problems.
"Enrons employees, and the whole world, now know that the company cooked the books to make its financial statements look better. Employee representatives on the pension board could have put a stop to these practices before 15,000 workingmen and women saw their savings evaporate.
"Real pension reform, the kind this country so desperately needs, would empower workers to make their own decisions about the retirement savings.
"The Democratic proposal does just this. It would ensure working people get accurate investment advice, representation on pension boards to protect their interests, and notification when executives are dumping company stock. It would hold plans accountable through tougher criminal penalties for misconduct and would give employees the right to collect damages when they are misled.
"Whether it is ergonomics, unemployment benefits, health care, or retirement security, Republican control of the House has meant that the needs of workers take a back seat to business interests.
"We cannot let this happen to pension reform. It is simply too important.
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