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Dr. Jill Biden inspires AFSCME Retirees to fight to protect Social Security

By Ezra Kane-Salafia ·

Would-be first lady Dr. Jill Biden is inspiring AFSCME Retirees to protect Social Security against misguided actions like cutting payroll taxes, which would starve the retirement program of badly needed funds.

The Seniors for Biden group celebrated Social Security’s 85th birthday last Friday with Dr. Biden and a livestream panel of experts and retirees who talked about the importance of the New Deal-era program and discussed other issues affecting retirees.

Welcomed by Illinois U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Dr. Biden opened the panel with the story of her and her husband, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, built a family after tragedy. Dr. Biden spoke of how important community is, and how Social Security is an extension of that community.

Ours is a “country where all generations are valued, a place where, when you work hard your whole life and pay into the system, you earn the right to security,” she said. “And for 85 years, Social Security has ensured that Americans enjoy a secure retirement with guaranteed benefits after that lifetime of work and contributions.”

Later, more than 380,000 viewers around the country watched as Gary Mitchell, a former AFSCME International vice president and member of AFSCME Retirees Chapter 32, spoke about being personally affected by an out-of-control pandemic, skyrocketing drug prices and the potential danger of voting in a pandemic – all issues that have been the focus on AFSCME Retirees campaigns around the country.

“I’m a lung transplant recipient, I’m on a great deal of medication, so obviously the concern about prescription drug prices is very high on my list,” explained Mitchell, the current president of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans. “The Trump administration has done nothing but drop the ball on this issue. People aren’t even able to cut their pills in half anymore – that doesn’t even make a dent in the expense that seniors face.”

Steve Regenstreif, former director of AFSCME Retirees and chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Senior Council, gave an update on the work that the DNC Senior Council is doing this election year. Regenstreif told the panel how the Seniors for Biden arm of the Biden campaign is committed to including every senior activist it can – not just the famous names on the panel, but everyday citizens committed to doing right by their community.

“We didn’t want the membership [of Seniors for Biden] to be just well-known officials and celebrities, victory will only be achieved with participation from senior activists everywhere,” said Regenstreif.  “We want all of you to join Seniors for Biden. Everybody should be an organizer.”

Speaking after the event, Mitchell said that he hoped his participation, Dr. Biden’s remarks and the Biden campaign’s focus on issues critical to seniors would help motivate AFSCME members and retirees to get involved with the campaign.

“Many of our lives literally depend on who we support, who we vote for, and who we motivate to vote,” Mitchell said. “The fundamental truth is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to protect and enhance Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Social Security is a lifeline for seniors in this country. Without their protection and investment, we’re going to see a great deal of people suffering.”

Regenstreif said, “For AFSCME members covered by Social Security and members who desperately need GPO/WEP reform, Joe Biden has a plan to protect and enhance Social Security and reform GPO/WEP.”

“AFSCME has more than 250 state and local Retiree groups across America who have a long history of activism,” he added. “We urge them to get involved, to sign up for Seniors for Biden, and help turn out seniors in their community.”

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