Over 200 union retirees filled the Mahoning County Country Club in Girard Ohio, on Friday, October 24th to promote the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Senior Action. The Alliance is promoting greater activism among retired union members on behalf of issues of concern to senior citizens like health care, housing and Social Security.
Mike Rubicz, retired past president of United Steelworkers Local 1375 chaired the event. Rubicz, opening the meeting, stressed that the crisis in the economy is prompting great uncertainty among seniors. “These are supposed to be our golden years” he commented. “I had 44 Social Security units and I was counting on my 401K. Now I don’t want to open the statements that come in the mail.”
Rubicz went on to relate a story about 90-year old woman in Cleveland with a reverse mortgage who shot herself when sheriffs came knocking on to evict her.
The conference was greeted by several speakers including James Mefli, Mayor of Girard, Congressman Tim Ryan representing Youngtown’s 17th District, John Ryan standing in for Ohio Senator Sherrrod Brown, Norm Wernet of the Alliance of Retired Americans, and State Senator Capri S. Cafaro.
Wernet remarked that the Ohio Alliance “is here to build a coalition, a community activist network, an opportunity for seniors to speak to senior issues. It’s not just politics, it’s our politics, it’s about sustaining life after work. It’s about dignity, recognition and accountability.”
The Ohio senior citizen organizer stressed the importance of preserving Social Security pointing out that the average person receives about $12,000. In one Ohio county he said, “over half the woman live on $12,000 or less. By contrast “half of all men in Ohio receive $21,000” (including pension).
Congressman Tim Ryan also pointed to the importance of Social Security. “Some folks tried to take Social Security and put it into the stock market. We were close to a situation of having to bail out Social Security” he said.
Ryan concluded by commenting on a statement recently made by Alan Greenspan. “Greenspan said, ‘this has shaken my faith in the capitalistic system.’ “Hey have you been paying attention? We need to regulate!”
Retirees speaking at the meeting expressed great anger and frustration from the floor. “People are tired of bail outs for banks and corporations. When do seniors get bailed out?” one worker asked from the floor. He continued, : “They took our pension and applied it to hospitalization,” complaining that the workers had never been asked.
Seniors are angry with good reason. Chapter 11 bankruptcies for people over 65 have grown from 1991 to 2007 by 150 percent. For people over 75 bankruptcies are up over 400 percent.
State senator Capri-Cafaro said “We got to more than talk, we got to walk.”
Retirees were urged to vote on Election Day.