By Mark Gruenberg
July 10 2015 – WASHINGTON (PAI) – Hundreds of retirees, in D.C. for the legislative-political conference of the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), gave a warm welcome to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., who is challenging Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. They began with chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” and interrupted his speech with several long – and unprompted-standing ovations.
The enthusiasm of the ARA delegates is important: The union-backed organization has 4.3 million members in every congressional district nationwide. And those retired unionists in turn represent the consistently largest and most-active political constituency in the U.S. – Democratic, Independent or Republican – the elderly.
ARA delegates gave Sanders — a down-the-line supporter of unions, workers and their rights, the elderly, Social Security and Medicare — thunderous applause as he reiterated those stands. After his speech, delegates spent their afternoon lobbying for those causes, too.
Sanders knew what the crowd wanted, which is what he has preached for his 24-year career in Congress and what he gave to the ARA on July 9: An active endorsement of their goals. He and the delegates are led by protecting and expanding Social Security – by scrapping the wage cap on income taxed to provide for benefits and using that money to pay more to beneficiaries. The American people want that, too, Sanders declared.
“Because of the ARA and other groups like it and because of the trade union movement, there was a poll two weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, where 61 percent of the people said ‘lift the caps,’ while 20 percent opposed,” he added, to cheers.
“But the struggle is not only to extend and expand Social Security,” he said. “It’s to have Medicare for all” – he specified it should be a single-payer government-run health plan – “and a national standard of living with dignity, raising the minimum wage to be a living wage, and to have pay equity for woman workers.” (Continued)