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UE POLICY 2009-2011

UE Convention Resolutions
Protect and Expand Social Security

Retirement experts advise that, to live in modest comfort, the average worker will need retirement income equaling 75 to 90 percent of pre-retirement income. That income is expected to come from three sources: pensions provided by employers, personal savings, and Social Security.

A shrinking minority of American workers are covered by defined-benefit pensions. Savings programs, such as 401(k)s, that are replacing real pensions are an utter failure as retirement plans, as evidenced by the massive losses many UE members experienced to their 401(k) accounts during this last financial crisis and stock market plunge. The majority of workers age 55 or older have less than $50,000 saved for retirement. Record unemployment and the lack of good-paying jobs makes it extremely unlikely that this will improve. That leaves Social Security, which on average provides about 40 percent of a workers' pre-retirement income, and is currently the sole source of income for six out of ten retirees. That number will grow if pensions and savings continue to decline.

The only sensible long-term solution to the retirement income crisis is to expand and improve Social Security.

At the end of World War II, UE and virtually all the unions of both the C.I.O. and A.F.L. agreed on the need to complete the unfinished business of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal by providing health insurance and retirement security for all Americans. Labor rallied behind legislation, known as the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill, that would have expanded Social Security into a true national healthcare and retirement system. Most union leaders and members at the time wanted no part of retirement plans or health insurance provided by employers as a result of collective bargaining. Big business used all its political influence to block this important progressive legislation, and the labor movement changed course – for the most part, reluctantly – and negotiated pensions and healthcare plans with individual employers, with eligibility for coverage limited to employees of that company.

Since the Reagan administration of the early 1980s there has been a steady drumbeat of "free market" ideology. With few dissenting voices we've been told "big government" is the problem and the path to economic salvation is to "individualize" our retirement savings and turn them over to private financial interests and advisers. The result has been disastrous, as the retirement system for workers, especially in the private sector, is badly broken and in need of immediate response.

Retirement income security, like healthcare, is a fundamental right for all people. We need an expansion of Social Security into a "single-payer" source of adequate retirement income.

If Congress were to leave Social Security untouched, the program would be able to meet its obligations in full until 2053, after which about 80 percent of benefits could be paid.

Our forefathers and foremothers in the labor movement fought for the principle that every person should have the right to retire in dignity and security. It is time for working people to take up the demand of that earlier generation. Social Security must be expanded to fully live up to its name, and provide true retirement security for all.


  1. Calls on Congress and the President to address the country's retirement security crisis by expanding Social Security to pay retired workers 75 to 90 percent of their pre-retirement income;
  2. Demands that Congress and the President reject all efforts to privatize Social Security, reduce benefits, or raise the retirement age, and that they return the retirement age for full Social Security to 65;
  3. Calls upon Congress to remove the cap on Social Security taxes so that all workers contribute the same percentage of earnings to the trust fund and that any additional funding needed for expansion of the program be raised through business taxes;
  4. Demands that congressional representatives, candidates, the President, and respective state legislators reject all schemes to undermine, destroy or weaken our existing private and public-sector pension systems.
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