A TRIP TO CAPITOL HILL
Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. with my fellow union retirees in AFSCME. We had a wonderful week of camaraderie and learning to craft our own message to take to our representatives regarding the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 597 / H.R. 82).
H.R. 82 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) that deprive more than 2.5 million public employees of Social Security benefits they have earned.
How the Government Pension Offset (GPO) Works – Social Security pays benefits to the spouse of retired and disabled workers and to widow(er)s of deceased workers. The GPO offset requires a reduction in the Social Security spousal and widow(er)’s benefit received by public employees who earn a pension from non-covered employment. The GPO offset amounts to a two-thirds reduction in one’s public pension. If two-thirds of one’s government pension is more than their Social Security benefit, their benefit could be reduced to zero. The GPO especially hurts low-wage public sector workers, particularly women, who find the Social Security benefits they expected substantially diminished, if not eliminated entirely. This happens even if their public pension is very modest. As of December 2021, some half a million Social Security beneficiaries saw GPO take away all of their spousal or widow(er)s benefits. About 83% of these individuals were women.[i]
Politicians claim that our states are broke, only to give out hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax breaks to big corporations. They want to cut the wages, benefits, and retirement security of nurses, corrections officers, first responders — and all the folks who make our cities and states run. And they want to cut retiree pensions, health care, Social Security, and Medicare.
It is sad when you travel halfway across the country and your Congressman and your State Senator along with their staff refuse to book an appointment. This certainly speaks loud and clear that they are not representing you and I. When I learned this, I simply crafted a letter to each Congressman Tom Tiffany, and State Senator Ron Johnson. I attached the letter, which included my name and address, to the packet I had for them and went to their office. I handed it to the staff telling them who I was, that I was saddened by their refusal to see me. Leaving the packet and the letter, I explained that I fully expect to hear back.
The silence is deafening, and they have no respect for their constituents, The staff does not even attempt to be nice and there is no eye contact from them. Perhaps “curt” would be a good word.
To end this on a good note, I also visited the offices of Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Mark Pocan. Senator Baldwin had signed on early to the Social Security Fairness bill. Her staff is genuine, courteous, and humble. Congressman Pocan, the same. He himself was able to meet with us briefly and his staff took it from there. Congressman Pocan truly cares. As you may recall, during Act 10 in Wisconsin, it was Pocan who moved his desk to the lawn when then Governor Walker closed the capitol to the public. Pocan was there for his constituents. The conversation in these offices is relaxed and easy-going. To these people, we are grateful for their dedication.