Retired Floridians target Marco Rubio
These retirees aren’t willing to wait until after Election Day to pressure their Senator to do the right thing. | Florida AFL-CIO

On a sidewalk just outside of Senator Rubio’s Tampa office, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined with representatives of the Alliance for Retired Americans to send a clear message: Marco Rubio has failed Florida’s retired workers and needs to go.

But these retirees aren’t willing to wait until after Election Day to pressure their Senator to do the right thing.

“We would like Sen. Rubio to sign this pledge to the children of the United States who receive survivor benefits from Social Security,” said Bill Sours, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.  “When I was eight years old in 1965, my father passed away and he left my mother with four of us… If it wasn’t for those survivor benefits, my family doesn’t succeed and go on to realize the American Dream.”

Those same children face a more long-term danger if Marco Rubio and Senate Republicans were given a majority and the presidency in November. While vehemently denying he would cut benefits for those currently receiving Social Security, Rubio has consistently advocated for raising the retirement age and slashing benefits in the name of “responsibility.”

“Marco Rubio says you must cut Social Security to save it,” said Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Secretary Barbara Devaine. “He and all his Republican cohorts in Congress say that, but don’t believe it! He’s trying to scare young workers, don’t believe that lie.”

One piece of legislation which seeks to save and expand Social Security was introduced in 2015 by Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Social Security Expansion Act subjects all income over $250,000 to the payroll tax which would only impact the top 1.5 percent of wage earners while bringing stability for future workers. Additionally, it would increase current Social Security monthly checks by $65 and increase future cost-of-living adjustments.

“Two-thirds of retirees on Social Security are relying on it for over half of their income, and three in 10  are relying on it for over 90 percent of their income,” said President Trumka, citing Social Security Administration statistics. “He voted to privatize Social Security, a fancy way of saying he wants to turn Social Security over to Wall St. That’s why Marco Rubio is so dangerous for Florida and America,” Trumka added.

Trumka and others pulled no punches calling out Rubio on his abhorrent Senate attendance record.

“He doesn’t show up to work to vote at the Senate and, quite frankly, that’s probably a good thing,” Trumka told the chuckling crowd, “because every time he does show up, he votes against the interests of working people.”

“When you make $174,000 per year, shouldn’t you at least show up for the job?” asked Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director Rich Fiesta. “Millions of Floridians did show up for their jobs, and they earned Social Security.”

According to Fiesta, the average Social Security benefit for Florida seniors is barely $1,300 per month, and for women it’s $1,100 per month.

Barbara Devaine communicated a stark reality for many seniors when she recalled how Marco Rubio once said that “Social Security weakened us as people.”

“I’ll tell you what weak would be,” she declared. “If I didn’t get my little social security check every third Wednesday of the month, I would be weak because I would be starving.”

Both the Alliance for Retired Americans and the AFL-CIO have endorsed Patrick Murphy over Marco Rubio. “Patrick opposes benefit cuts to Social Security, including privatization, raising the retirement age, means testing, and cutting cost-of-living adjustments,” reads his websites page on Social Security and Medicare.


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.