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Protecting Social Security’s future: ‘This is a fight we can win’

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, December 20, 2019

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

BLAINE — In organizing a public forum this past fall on the future of Social Security, the Minneapolis Regional Retiree Council, AFL-CIO aimed high. They brought in a national expert on Social Security, Nancy Altman, and they ambitiously planned to livestream the event on Facebook.

The October 19 event drew about 300 people to the Teamsters Local 120 union hall in Blaine.

In addition, about 8,000 people watched at least three minutes of the livestream of the event, which was produced by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service.

“From my point of view, it was a very successful event. We had a full house,” commented Leif Grina, president of the Council and a retired SEIU organizer.

“We had people from a lot of different unions and some who weren’t affiliated,” he said.

And the audience was engaged. “There were a lot of really good questions from the audience,” Grina said.

From the livestream, “we even got a question that came in from Florida,” Grina reported.

“We were very satisfied with the event; It was the largest event we’ve ever done,” noted Graeme Allen, who provides staff support to the Council as community and political organizer for the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. “We met our goals.”

A chief goal of the event, of course, was educational: to highlight the importance of the Social Security program and to dispel the myth that the program and its benefits are unsustainable.

“There has been a billionaire-funded, decades-long campaign against Social Security and it’s still going on,” keynote speaker Nancy Altman said. “It has undermined opinion that the program will be there in the future.”

Author and Social Security advocate Nancy Altman keynoted the October 19 forum.

Enacted during the Great Depression in 1935, Social Security benefits for 84  years have dependably provided income to seniors, the disabled, and families who lose a spouse or parent.

Altman rejected the notion that Social Security has become too expensive. “Somehow now, when we’re at the wealthiest moment in our history, Social Security is not affordable?”

“There’s no question we can afford Social Security,” Altman said. “It’s a matter of values. It’s not a matter of affordability.”

She pointed to legislative proposals like the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 860), which would provide additional resources for Social Security by implementing a small increase in the rate for everyone’s Social Security contributions and by phasing-in the lifting of annual income cap beyond which Social Security taxes do not apply (currently $132,900).

The language used in debating the future of Social Security is important, Altman said, and she encouraged people to think about Social Security contributions as an insurance premium, not a tax. “These are premiums — this is insurance.”

Social Security continues to enjoy wide public support, Altman noted, and any proposal to upend the program should be resisted. “This is a fight we can win.”

Altman advised: “Anytime anyone says Social Security is a problem, you should say, what are you talking about? It’s a solution. It works extraordinarily well. It works better than any private-sector counterpart.”

“Social Security is an example of intergenerational solidarity,” Altman said. “Workers earn this money. It’s our insurance. It unites us. It is all of us contributing, sharing risks and responsibilities.”

Peter Molenaar, a retired Teamster, highlighted the event’s call to action: “Are we prepared to hit the streets, as Nancy Altman suggested we should do, if the worst should come to pass?”

“Most of the people there were ready to respond to any call,” Molenaar believed.


About the keynote speaker

Nancy J. Altman, keynote speaker at the October 19 forum, is president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition.

She has a 40-year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions.

Altman currently serves as a member of the Social Security Advisory Board, a bipartisan, independent federal government agency established in 1994 to advise the President, Congress, and the Commissioner of Social Security.

  Nancy Altman


Do you have a story about
Social Security to share?

The Minneapolis Regional Retiree Council is looking for active and retiree union members willing to share their experiences with Social Security to be used as part of a social media campaign to keep the issue of continuing and improving Social Security front and center as part of the 2020 election discussion.

Social Security is the most important underpinning of a secure retirement and legislation must be passed to maintain and improve the program to protect it not only for current retirees, but for future retirees.

If you have a story you’re willing to share, contact Graeme Allen at the Regional Labor Federation (612-481-2144) or Mike Nelson, Chair of the MRRC Social Security/Medicare work group (763-757-9125).



Click here to watch a video of the October 19 forum

Related stories:

> National advocate for Social Security will keynote Retiree Councilís October 19 forum
(Minneapolis Labor Review, 9-27-19)

> October 19: Saving Social Security will be topic for Minneapolis Regional Retiree Council forum

(Minneapolis Labor Review, 9-27-19)


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