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1999 Political Action Conference
Opposing Privatization:
Demanding a Stronger
Social Security System


Page Four
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Page One: Delegates Urge Congress: 'Get Back to the People's Business!'

Page Two:
Lobbying on Capitol Hill: Responses range from 'Positive' to 'Pathetic'

Page Three:
UE Delegates Demand Answers on Job-Killing Trade Deals

• Page Four:
Union Opposes Social Security Privatization; Demands Stronger System

Page Five: Representatives Who Fight for the People Address UE Delegates (photos)

Page Six:
Images from the Conference (photos)


Read the issues briefings conference delegates received in Political Action ...

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Director of Organization Bob Kingsley
Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley speaks at a rally outside the Cato Institute, a leading promoter of the privatization of the people’s Social Security system. Also speaking were Brahm Muther, Local 218, Donna Cramer, Local 506, and Al Harhay, Local 1111.

"Privatize this!" chanted fist-waving UE members as they picketed the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank promoting the surrender of Social Security to Wall Street speculators.

In their noon-hour picket line and in meetings with members of Congress, delegates to the UE Political Action Conference called for strengthening the nation’s most successful social program. Union members challenged Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), a principal proponent of privatization, and reminded fence-sitting Democrats that no form of privatization would be acceptable.

At the demonstration ...

UE members contended that the cap on Social Security taxes should be scrapped or raised. The rich pay only on the first $72,600 they earn, contributing only a minuscule portion of their income. Eliminating the cap would eliminate any shortfall projected for the future.

Rep.Thomas Sawyer thought lifting the cap would be a good idea. The Ohio Democrat drew a graph for his visitors from UE District Seven to demonstrate that 35 years from now there may be deficit — but of short duration. As new workers from the recent baby boom enter the workforce, new money will be pumped into the system, he said.

Sawyer agreed with UE members that workers should not be forced to stay on the job until 72. Not all lawmakers were so compassionate.


Save Social Security!

A UE District Two delegation found Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D., N.Y.) willing to raise the retirement age, with shocking indifference to the demanding physical labor experienced by many workers. When UE members pointed out the toll taken by a lifetime’s toil, the Senator’s aide responded: "We’d include disability coverage."

"We couldn’t believe such cold-heartedness," District Two Pres. Judy Atkins commented at the April 21 wrap-up session.

Privatization schemes have little appeal to Rep. Tom Barrett, as a UE District 11 delegation learned. The Wisconsin Democrat recalled how 401(k) plans and IRAs were created — "with huge tax incentives" — to allow for personal control over retirement investments in addition to Social Security.

Hands Off Social Security!

The absence of any formal legislation at the time of UE members’ lobbying allowed some legislators to sidestep the issue. While expressing general support for Social Security and opposition to privatization in theory, these members of Congress said they would consider plans developed by the Clinton Administration that are likely to include some Wall Street involvement.

When an aide to Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) told a UE District 10 delegation her boss was leaning against individual accounts but willing to consider investments in stock market — both likely elements of a Clinton plan — union members had a ready answer. "We strongly support preservation of the current system," commented Frank Stoltze, Local 1421. "We remember how Social Security came into existence after a stock market crash."


In the workshop conducted by Intl. Rep. Carol Lambiase, delegates considered the misinformation used to undermine people’s confidence in Social Security. Speakers pointed out that without any changes at all, the system is sound for the next 35 years — and that without any action by Congress, that projection has been improving. Genl. Pres. John Hovis observed that if Social Security is privatized, the massive infusion of capital will give corporations more money to export more U.S. jobs more quickly.

Ruth Conniff, Washington editor of Progressive magazine

Ruth Conniff, Washington editor of Progressive magazine.

Ruth Conniff, Washington editor of Progressive magazine, said that the system only needs modest economic growth and jobs with decent wages to remain solvent. Proponents of privatization warn of economic calamity ahead, Conniff said, but they can’t have it both ways, she said. "If the economy is going into the toilet, so is the stock market," she commented. "We won’t see any benefits from privatization."

Republicans and some Democrats, Conniff said, "are getting ready to scrap a system that has worked well for 65 years, on the theory that if we get a good broker we’ll all be rich."

Like the bosses’ resistance to union organization, employer opposition to Social Security is about power, not money, Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark suggested. Both Social Security and unions restrict the bosses’ ability to control our lives, he said. This is an ideological issue — and unions need to shift the terms of the debate, Clark proposed.

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