Speaking at an event in Maine, USW member Tammy Marston of Local 261 described her experiences doing physically demanding work in a paper mill. She called on Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to consider the experiences of workers like her as Congress debates raising the age for Social Security and Medicare in working towards balancing the federal budget.
Rather than cutting “entitlement” programs that help protect the working class from poverty, Marston and other USW activists called on Congress to address the budget deficit by letting the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich expire at the end of the year.
“It is unreal to think that Congress would push regular folks like me to work a few more years at jobs that wreck our bodies,” Marston said, “just to save some super wealthy people a small tax increase.”
In Little Rock, Ark., USW members joined a meeting with Sen. Mark Pryor, and in Virginia, USW members participated in a teleconference between Sen. Mark Warner and a coalition of labor and community organizations. These meetings also urged Congress to avoid making cuts to essential social and educational programs, and to instead supplement budget shortfalls by eliminating tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent.
USW members participated in rallies and other events in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts, California, Indiana, Minnesota and elsewhere.
As a part of an AFL-CIO National Day of Action, the events aimed to keep up the momentum from the recent election as the looming fiscal cliff threatens programs like Medicare and Social Security. In total, 146 national organizations, including the United Steelworkers (USW), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other unions, endorsed the call to create jobs, preserve social programs and end tax cuts for the wealthy.
In Pittsburgh, 30 USW members joined more than 100 representatives from diverse labor and community groups in calling on Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) to work with other members of Congress to preserve vital social programs.
“It is time to put aside divisive politics,” said Kim Miller, director of the USW’s Rapid Response program, the union’s nonpartisan grassroots education, communication, and action program. “We must work on jointly developing policies to put America to work, while making sure there are no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as well as no more tax cuts for the top 2 percent.”
When Congress reconvenes on Nov. 13, it will be a “lame duck” session, an uncertain time in which the outgoing members of Congress continue to hold their positions until the newly elected officials take office on Jan. 3. During this period, the labor movement wants to keep its election agenda moving forward, remaining focused on job creation and widespread economic security.
The rallies urged both Republican and Democratic politicians to listen to their constituents, reminding them that voters decisively rejected a budget plan that was based on tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the elderly and the poor.
Four years ago, the labor movement’s divided attention allowed the Tea Party to push their priorities at the expense of social programs. Despite this memory, Silas Russell, a coordinator with activist group One Pittsburgh told the crowd in Pittsburgh, “we’re not going after one party; this is about bipartisanship.”
Posted November 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm, in Union Matters