Issue Brief – Multiemployer Pensions: Assessing the Financial Challenges

The Institute for Pension Fund Integrity released their latest issue brief today — an examination of the state of multiemployer pension plans and the various policy challenges and solutions facing these funds. More than 10 million Americans depend on these plans for their retirement, which could be hurt by funding challenges.

Several key considerations are evaluated in this issue brief:

  • A number of underlying problems face multiemployer pension plans and the historical trends that have exacerbated their current standing. These include declining manufacturing, demographic trends, and changes to American trade and regulatory policy. Several prominent multiemployer pension plans in the United States stand out for their endangered status.
  • Faced with the challenges of the current economic crisis, many pensions are taking steps to avoid insolvency, with varying degrees of risk. These have included cutting benefits, forcing employers to pay more into plans, or making more risky investments to close the financial gap.
  • The federal government has historically taken actions through legislation and regulatory efforts to reform multiemployer pension plans. While well-intentioned, these reforms have generally failed to produce meaningful reform to save the largest and most in-need pensions in the country. Reforms spearheaded by the federal government are necessary to save these pension plans from failing and ensuring the financial security of their members.

“The time to ensure that pension fund managers are bound by their fiduciary obligation to their beneficiaries and not by any other political motives is now,” said IPFI President Christopher Burnham. “Prioritizing issues other than pure financial returns may be an acceptable strategy for individuals managing their own money or for corporate board rooms contemplating the future of their company, but for fiduciaries, prioritizing any kind of self-interest or ulterior motive over maximizing returns is a dereliction of duty.”

Read the latest issue brief on multiemployer pensions HERE.



Multiemployer pension plans are joint pension plans created between employers and unions, which allow for employees working in industries that require them to move between different employers the retirement security of a pension. These plans have recently faced pressure due to declines in manufacturing industries, demographic shifts, and a host of other factors, including bankruptcies. Many of these pensions today are on the brink of collapse, which would be disastrous for the U.S. economy and for workers.

The Institute for Pension Fund Integrity remains focused on evaluating the fiscal factors facing pensions across the country and provide meaningful solutions to ensure the retirement security of pension beneficiaries.