Defend the Social Safety Net

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The campaign has produced this booklet.
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In the wake of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, attacks against Social Security, public sector pensions, Medicare and other social safety net programs have escalated -- all part of an ominous political thrust to shift the burden of the municipal, state and federal budget crises to working families and the poor.

The attacks on these programs constitute a major threat to the wellbeing of the next generations of American workers, as well as to those currently depending on retirement, survivor or medical benefits.

In response, the Retirees’ Chapter in October 2010 formed a Social Safety Net Working Group. At it February 2011 meeting, the PSC Executive Council voted to expand what started out as a chapter initiative into a union-wide campaign.
The primary purpose of the campaign to:

  • Educate our own members, especially younger active members, about the issues.
  • Set the record straight about these programs by dispelling the misinformation used to undermine support for them.
  • Join larger coalitions already formed in defense of the social safety net.

The group, initially consisting of nine retirees, has been meeting regularly to review literature on safety net programs and to draft its own straightforward statements on three programs in particular to be used in an educational campaign:

  • Social Security
  • Public Pensions
  • Medicare/Retiree Healthcare

The group’s first task was to draft a short, plain-spoken booklet explaining the programs and why their support is crucial. Its second was to plan a major forum. The brochure, entitled “Defending the Social Safety Net: A Call to Action,” is now available in hard copy and online and is being used at campus chapter presentations and elsewhere. It will be available to other unions and civic groups with an invitation to “steal this book,” and use it in their own endeavors with whatever modifications they deem necessary to meet their particular needs.

Dean Baker, the keynote speaker at the 10/25/11 forum.
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The forum took place on Oct. 25, 2011 at the Hospital Workers/1199 auditorium. An enthusiastic audience of about 200 people, young and older PSC members, students, and representatives of other unions and advocacy groups, filled the hall. The keynote speaker was the economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic & Policy Analysis.

Baker was followed by Kimberly Phillips-Fein of NYU, who spoke on the attack on Social Security. After that, James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute discussed the state budget context, and Frances Fox Piven concluded the event with a call to action.

Safety Net team members Cecelia McCall and John Hyland distributing brochures at NYSUT RA, April 2012.
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[A follow-up forum took place on April 8, 20-13. Click here for Clarion coverage of the event.|

Along with the forums and the brochure, members of the working group have been visiting PSC chapters to present and discuss important information on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and pensions. These activities are motivated by a desire to interest and engage the whole union, both in-service and retiree members, in this important project. It will take the energy of all of us, now and in the future, to maintain and advance the safety net benefits so essential to all of us. (A slide show used at these chapter presentations is available as a Powerpoint presentation and a PDF.)

The work of the Social Safety Net Working Group complements that of the PSC on budget and contract issues, particularly as the response to the attack on public sector pensions affects how we fight against CUNY budget cuts and for a successor PSC-CUNY contract. As a result, the Social Safety Net Working Group will coordinate its work with the PSC Legislative and Contract Negotiating committees.

The PSC Safety Net Working Group produces a monthly e-newsletter with news and activities keyed to the defense and expansion of the social safety net. Click here if you would like to subscribe.

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Join the work of the Safety Net Working Group: Now that the work has been expanded to a union-wide campaign, the Safety Net Working Group welcomes active as well as retiree members to join its effort. If you are interested, contact one of the group’s co-chairs:

We also welcome other organizations and activists to join us. You can contact us by clicking here.
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Seeking Personal Stories About Social Security: Do you have a story about social security benefits that you would like to share with the membership?

The Social Safety Net Group is seeking testimony from members whose lives were made more secure because of Social Security as they - or family members - faced issues involving retirement, disabilities, loss of parent, or loss of spouse. The committee is interested in putting a "human face" together with the intellectual arguments needed to protect Social Security from the efforts to diminish its benefits.

Click here for a form to write and submit testimony.

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Contest Backfires on Social Security Privatizer

Video: 
See video
Caption: 
Just Scrap The Cap (We're Movin' In)
Video Source/Author: 
Social Security Works
Video Subject/s: 
Social Security

[Story by Mike Hill, AFL-CIO Now Blog, 7/10/13]

Oh, the sweet irony.

Pete Peterson is the conservative billionaire who is a major financier in the effort to dismantle, cut and privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Recently he and his foundation held a contest asking folks to submit videos on why it is important to “fix” the national debt of which, he and his foundation falsely claim, Social Security is a major contributor.

Sometimes the best-laid plans for a propaganda campaign can go awry. The winner of the $500 grand prize determined by popular vote on the website came from the completely opposite side of Peterson’s cut Social Security argument.

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Safety Net Forum -- April 8th

THE SAFETY NET, SEQUESTRATION AND AUSTERITY POLITICS:

WHERE WE ARE HEADED. WHAT WE CAN DO.

Dean Baker
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The PSC Social Safety Net working group is pleased to invite you to our second conference which will take place on April 8, 2013 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. As the title above indicates, the focus of this event is the impact that sequestration may have on social safety net programs - Social Security, Medicare, pensions and the full range of programs that we have fought for and earned and that many retirees, children and low-income people depend upon. Featured speakers include Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute, Frances Fox Piven of the CUNY Graduate Center and Michael Zweig of SUNY Stony Brook and US Labor Against the War. They will analyze and speak to the current climate of austerity and what we can do to combat it.

In addition, Labor Arts has organized a special visual presentation about the history of the safety net.

“Stop the Sequester” Rally and News Conference

In less than two weeks, drastic, across-the-board “sequestration” cuts to the federal budget will begin to take effect unless Congress takes action to avert them and pursue alternative ways to reduce the budget deficit. Food inspections, disease surveillance and control, Head Start, AIDS drug programs, cancer screenings, senior nutrition programs, and many others services that New Yorkers depend are slated to be cut along with military spending. Progressive organizations are gathering outside the NYC offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand (780 3rd Ave. between 48th and 49th St.) this Wed., Feb 20 at 4:30 PM to demand a just alternative to sequestration. Members of the PSC’s Social Safety Net Committee will be there; please join them.

What You Can Do to Defend the Social Safety Net

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SEND A LETTER TO CONGRESS! Tell your senators and house representative:

  • NO tax breaks for the richest 2%.
  • NO Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid Cuts.

Defend the social safety net! Click here to send your message to Congress.

Take action to stop a Grand Bargain that hurts millions of Americans

This week we have a chance to send a strong message to Washington while negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff” are going on. It’s critical that New York’s congressional delegation oppose the right-wing agenda of cuts and privatization that threatens Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Instead of cutting programs that millions of low-income and middle-class Americans depend on, Congress should end the Bush tax cuts and increase taxes for the wealthy, as President Obama has advocated. Read more to find out how you can help:

Take action to stop a Grand Bargain that hurts millions of Americans

This week we have a chance to send a strong message to Washington while negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff” are going on. It’s critical that New York’s congressional delegation oppose the right-wing agenda of cuts and privatization that threatens Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Instead of cutting programs that millions of low-income and middle-class Americans depend on, Congress should end the Bush tax cuts and increase taxes for the wealthy, as President Obama has advocated. Read more to find out how you can help:

PSC Safety Net Committee teams with NYC Care Congress, Sunday June 3

Join with the PSC's Social Safety Net Working Group as we team with many other unions and advocacy organizations in support of kick off the "Caring Across Generations" campaign here in NYC organized by Domestic Workers United and Align. The Care Congress is Sunday, June 3, 2-5pm, Pace University, across from City Hall.

The Care Congress is the NYC start of a national campaign to strengthen the safety net by guaranteeing quality care provided by a unionized, trained workforce. A parallel goal is to defend and expand Social Security, Medicare, pensions and other safety net programs.

Safety Net Bulletin #1

This is the first of periodic bulletins sent by the Safety Net Working Group of the Professional Staff Congress.

It focuses on three actions we can take given the immediacy of the super committee report to Congress on November 23rd and the sun setting of the NY millionaire’s tax on December 31st.

Defend the Safety Net Forum Focuses on Action

The Defend the Social Safety Net Forum, Tuesday night, October 25th, was a call to action. While speakers provided economic, political and historical context to deepen understanding of the issues, the emphasis of the evening was on action.

Both speakers and audience keyed on how to protect and extend Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, employee health benefits, public-sector pensions, unemployment benefits and other safety net programs. The defense of the social safety net has particular resonance for adjuncts, given the PSC’s campaign to save and enhance adjunct healthcare insurance.

Don’t cut the safety net!

SEND AN ACT NOW LETTER! Congress’s Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (i.e. the “Super Committee”) is meeting in secret, and making plans that could increase economic insecurity and reduce access to health care for millions of Americans. The fight is on to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, employee health benefits, public-sector pensions and other safety net programs.

As workers, we’ve earned our network of benefits, and we must fight to keep them. National safety net programs, public pensions and other benefits are under attack.

Click here to send a letter to your representatives and congress. Tell them, hands off the social safety net!

Defending the Social Safety Net: A Call to Action

SafetyNetBrochure1011.jpgA New PSC Brochure: The Social Safety Net Working Group has produced a brochure that is both an analysis of attacks on the social safety net and a call to action. The brochure is available both in print and on the web.

Defending the social safety net is critical not only to PSC retirees dependent on Social Security, Medicare and their pensions now, but especially to younger, active members of the Professional Staff Congress, so they will be able to enjoy life’s pleasures after long years of hard work. Just as important, the future security of the next generations depends on our actions to defend the social safety net today.

Tell Your Senators: Support Social Security by co-sponsoring the "Keeping Our Social Security Promise Act."

DefendSS.jpgSIGN THE PETITION!

Four progressive senators will soon introduce a bill that will ensure that Social Security stays fully funded for another 75 years by lifting the cap on the payroll tax that funds Social Security. It's a simple and fair way to strengthen the program.

Defend Social Security!

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Update: NPR ran a good explanation of the proposed switch to a so-called "chained CPI" measure of inflation. Changing the way the government calculates inflation would in turn reduce Social Security cost of living adjustments. The plan would cut the benefit for an average earner retiring in 2011 by as much as $6,000 over 15 years. Please send an Act Now letter today.
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One of the pillars of the social safety net, Social Security has now been targeted by Democrats as well as Republicans. The PSC strongly supports holding Social Security harmless from cuts and adamantly opposes efforts to impose austerity on working people.

There’s a plan on Capitol Hill that would slash Social Security benefits as part of a deficit reduction package. By changing the way the government calculates inflation and Social Security cost of living adjustments, the plan would cut the benefit for an average earner retiring in 2011 by as much as $6,000 over 15 years.

Read about what’s wrong with the proposal, then click here to tell your senators, “Don’t cut Social Security.”