The U.S. population is growing older and grayer, with millions of baby-boomers reaching the age of retirement each year.
There are currently 56 million people drawing Social Security benefits. The Congressional Budget Office expects to pay $727 billion in benefits this year and that the annual cost of the program will climb by 75 percent in the next decade, reaching nearly $1.3 trillion in 2021.
The CBO statistics is causing deep concern among Social Security beneficiaries, especially those for whom the monthly check is virtually a lifeline to survival. There are growing fears that Republicans, with the support of President Obama, will find some formula to reduce benefits and even impose drastic changes in the entitlement.
The American labor movement has traditionally been the most powerful defender of Social Security, but it has not sufficiently mobilized the millions of retirees themselves to protest any basic downgrading of the law. It is essential to involve as many retirees as possible to help ward off the attacks on this basic entitlement by a well-financed Republican-corporate coalition.
Unions Can Help Retirees Deal with Human Problems
Millions of workers, after they retire, suffer depression because they do not know what to do with their lives. They feel unwanted. Their former co-workers rarely visit them or even call them by phone for a pleasant conversation.
They don’t know how to spend their days. They don’t have to get out of bed early to dress and go to work. No one, outside of their family, cares what they do. They may spend hours listlessly watching TV.
If they are union members, they probably have been taken off the rolls, because they have stopped paying dues. They are not particularly welcome when they stop by at their old job and see a lot of new faces. What hurts most, especially for the more sensitive retirees, is a loss of respect. Many, after 27 weeks or more without a paycheck, begin to feel like a non-person.
How Unions Can Make the Lives of Retired Members More Livable.
When members retire, unions should not forget them. Keep them as a special unit and provide them with a meeting room of their own, where they can enjoy each other’s company and perhaps plan joint activities in behalf of the local union.
Let’s remember that retirees have special skills and experiences that unions can utilize in their organizing and legislative campaigns. Their advice can be helpful. They offer a valuable resource that should not be neglected.