By Robby Stern
I delivered the following speech on behalf of PSARA at the well-attended January 12 kickoff rally in support of the adoption of a $15 minimum livable wage in Seattle.
Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA) is prepared to add our voice and our energy to the movement for a $15 minimum livable wage in the city of Seattle and ultimately for all of Washington.
PSARA is an organization of people from the age of 21 to 96. We, through our collective activism, want to help create a just and peaceful world where all people can live with dignity and respect. We are committed to working for economic and social justice, environmental sustainability, economic security, and equal rights and opportunities for retirees and future retirees.
The fight for a $15 minimum livable wage begins to address the transcendent crisis we face as a result of the inequitable distribution of wealth in our region and country. We stand ready to fight for the $15 wage, just as we have fought for Paid Sick Days legislation and as we continue to fight for good family wage jobs for people during their working lives.
PSARA also leads the fight in our region for preserving and strengthening our Social Security and Medicare systems so that seniors and future generations of seniors can live lives of dignity, respect and economic security.
We stand ready to fight with you in this campaign for a $15 minimum livable wage.
We also hope you will join with us in the campaigns that are presently going on and those that lie ahead as we take on the challenges of making our society one in which economic and social justice rain down like a mighty stream.
Please join with us to fight for the ability of seniors and future seniors to live their lives with dignity, respect and economic security. Let’s win the $15 wage and then take up the fight to create good family wage jobs as we take on the task of sustaining our environment from the ravages of our fossil fuel economy.
We can win these battles, if we stand together and fight together.
On Saturday, February 15, at 2 p.m., active supporters of the $15 minimum livable wage will gather at the headquarters of SEIU 775, 215 Columbia St., Seattle, for an organizing session. People who want to work on the campaign are asked to attend.
The campaign plans to organize neighborhood by neighborhood. We will educate and mobilize to help the fight for $15 succeed against what promises to be very well financed and active opposition.
The only way to counter the power of big corporations like McDonalds and other large low wage employers is by building a genuine grassroots campaign. As we learned from the Sea Tac initiative, the success (or defeat) of this campaign will be felt across our country and even have an international impact.
PSARA members are invited to attend the Day of Organizing meeting on February 15 and are encouraged to bring friends who might be interested in lending a hand.
Senior Economic Insecurity
The D.C. based Economic Policy Institute recently released Briefing Paper #362 on senior economic insecurity. To quote, “Many of America’s 41 million seniors are just one bad economic shock away from significant material hardship. Most seniors live on modest retirement incomes, which often are barely adequate – and sometimes inadequate – to cover the cost of basic necessities and support a simple, yet dignified quality of life.”
The authors point out that Social Security and Medicare are the “bedrock” of financial security for most seniors and changes to these programs that lead to a decline in benefits are likely to have a very negative impact on a significant portion of the elderly population.
According to their research:
– Nearly half (48%) of the elderly population is “economically vulnerable,” which is defined as having an income less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold (SPT). This poverty measure is considered more accurate than the calculation of the Federal Poverty Level since it takes into account the costs of goods and services including medical expenses. Roughly 19.9 million seniors are economically vulnerable.
– People 80 and older have a higher rate of economic vulnerability, i.e. 58.1% compared to people 65 to 79 (44.4%).
– Women are 10.7% more likely to be economically vulnerable.
– A majority of elderly blacks and Hispanics are economically vulnerable; 63.5% of blacks and 70.1% of Hispanics age 65 and older are economically vulnerable, while 43.8% of whites are economically vulnerable.
– The share of economically vulnerable seniors varies by states with Washington estimated to have 40-44%.
– The Paul Ryan proposed changes to Medicare would increase the vulnerable senior population by 8.4% or almost 3.5 million.
– The switch to the Chained CPI would also push more elderly and particularly those 70 and over into economic vulnerability.
This Briefing Paper puts into context why we must aggressively work to build a movement to increase Social Security and Medicare benefits.