Last week, thousands of workers and retirees came to Columbus to demand Congress solve the crisis threatening the secure retirement these Americans earned. I serve as co-chair of the bipartisan select committee created to solve the pensions crisis, and Sen. Portman and I worked to bring members of the committee to Columbus to hear from Ohioans who have the most to lose if Congress fails to act.

They represent more than a million Americans around the country, who are at risk of losing the pensions they’ve earned over a lifetime of work. More than 60,000 Ohio retirees alone are at risk of pension cuts.

The massive Central States Teamsters Pension Plan, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Ironworkers Local 17 Pension Plan, the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan, and the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan are all currently on the brink of failure.

When Wall Street gambled and lost these pensions, Wall Street got a bailout; and when big corporations came to Washington looking for tax cuts, they got a handout.

These Americans don’t want a bailout or a handout – they’re just asking for what they earned.

We know what will happen if we don’t solve this. Retirees will face crippling cuts to their pensions checks. Hundreds of Ohio small businesses could go bankrupt. Current workers will have paid into a pension they’ll never receive. And after all that devastation, all those lives upended, taxpayers will still be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars to prop up the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation

That’s why I pressed for Congress to create this committee, to force members to come together and come up with a bipartisan solution by the end of the year to solve this crisis.

I’ve put out a proposal – the Butch Lewis Act – and I think it’s a good place to start. But everyone knows we can’t get anything done unless we work together.

Too much is at stake to retreat into partisan corners. That’s what the people who are counting on us deserve – the people in that hearing, and the millions of retirees and workers and thousands of small businesses they represent.

That’s why I am open to any solution that protects workers, retirees, and businesses. And I want to hear any idea that brings us closer to a bipartisan compromise.

Brown-062609-18446- 0008 0008

By Sen. Sherrod Brown

Contributing columnist

Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.