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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



By Ms. MURKOWSKI (for herself, Ms. STABENOW, and Ms. LANDRIEU):

S. 1206. A bill to amend title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to clarify the age discrimination rules applicable to the pension plan maintained by the Young Woman's Christian Association Retirement Fund; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I rise to introduce a bill that will clarify the legal status of the Young Women's Christian Association's Retirement Fund.

The YWCA Retirement Fund is one of the oldest pension plans serving the retirement needs of women. This bill will help protect the retirement security of thousands of YWCA employees nationwide who serve well over a million users.

Whether it is providing day care for working mothers, keeping a battered women's shelter open, or meeting the other pressing needs of women in our communities, the YWCA has a long tradition of service. Those who work at our local YWCAs deserve to know that their retirement plan is secure.

Today, the YWCA Retirement Fund is a unique pension program. First, approximately 90 percent of its participants are women. Second, it is a multiple employer pension plan--one that relies on 300 local YWCAs to make funding contributions. And lastly, since it was established in 1924, the pension plan's structure has remained generally unchanged--it is partially a defined benefit plan, and partially a defined contribution plan.

Recently, some employers have transformed their traditional defined benefit pension plans into various types of ``hybrid'' plans, and in the process, some have reduced the rate at which benefits accrue for their older workers. Older workers have successfully challenged some of these arrangements as age discriminatory. During its more than 80-year history, the YWCA Retirement Fund has never treated any worker differently based on age or longevity of employment. Most of the controversy surrounding these plans focuses on how employers treat certain participants when they convert their pre-existing pension plans. But the YWCA pension program never converted--its basic structure has remained the same since it was established in 1924.

The success of some of these lawsuits has raised questions about whether the YWCA pension plan could be found to be age discriminatory merely on the basis of its design. This threat is particularly acute given the fact that the YWCA Retirement Fund is a multiple employer pension plan--a plan that relies on contributions from each local YWCA. This enormous potential liability would be shared jointly by all local YWCAs. Under current law, even the mere threat of a lawsuit could cause local YWCAs to end their participation in this plan.

This legislation merely delineates many of the unique characteristics of the YWCA pension plan and clarifies what age discrimination standard applies to the plan with respect to any future legal claim. This bill protects participants from being treated differently on the basis of age, while eliminating the potential crippling legal threat that currently exists.

Legislation was enacted in 2004--Public Law 108-476--to clarify the legal status of the YMCA pension plan, a plan that is similar to the YWCA plan. Congress was right to protect the YMCA pension plan then and now it is time to protect the pension plan serving our YWCAs.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

S. 1206


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