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RTC Chapter Leader Column

Protect benefits with your vote

New York Teacher
Tom Murphy

With friends like these, we need more friends like these.

The most labor-friendly president and Congress ever are facing tough midterm elections. We should help our friends.

We’ve spent decades enhancing UFT member benefits by building the power of the UFT into a force to be reckoned with. Retirees more than anyone remember the challenges and the hard work it took to improve the economic and professional rights of educators and health care providers. For example, in 2017, to protect our pensions, we turned public support for a state constitutional convention into a rejection of that ballot initiative by 83% of state voters.

Now the fight has shifted to the national level, where we have to beat back anti-public education and anti-labor forces.

Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security remain vulnerable, and other social and economic needs were long neglected. In the face of these challenges, pro-union elected officials have acted. Since 2021, Congress has passed legislation — some with bipartisan support but most achieved by President Biden’s own political party — that has advanced important public policies. Let’s take a look at the record over the last two years:

  • March 2021: The American Rescue Plan pumped $1.9 billion into the economy after the pandemic’s disastrous effects.
  • November 2021: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act invested more than $1 trillion in transportation and infrastructure.
  • April 2022: The U.S. Postal Service, vital for seniors, was put on a sound footing.
  • June 2022: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the first African-American woman justice, and the Safer Communities Act provided increased gun safety legislation.
  • August 2022: The CHIPS and Science Act provided for substantial investment in U.S.-made technology, and the PACT Act provided for veterans with burn-pit injuries. Most crucially, the Inflation Reduction Act will reduce health care costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and raise taxes only on corporations and the wealthy. After a two-decades-long fight, Medicare will gain the power to negotiate prescription drug prices. An annual cap of $2,000 on out-of-pocket expenses for both drugs and affordable insulin was also included in that monumental piece of legislation.
  • September 2022: RTC members John Soldini and Nina Tribble represented the UFT at a White House briefing on plans to further enhance Medicare benefits if Congress remains in control of the Democratic Party in 2023.

All future federal legislation hinges on the results of the midterm elections. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions overturned a woman’s right to choose and dismantled the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement power. With conservatives in firm control of the Supreme Court, our fight shifts from the judicial to the legislative battlefront.

Recent fiscal legislation by a simple majority vote overcame judicial restrictions on the government’s power to curb carbon emissions. But federal legislation to protect women’s right to choose requires a larger majority. Opponents propose codifying the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Labor-friendly legislators pledge to codify a woman’s right to choose. Which do you want?

With our votes in November, we can help shape our country’s course. But only if a labor-friendly Congress emerges from the midterm elections.

Let’s not abandon our friends. We need them now more than ever. Our rights and benefits are on the line.

Related Topics: Retired Teachers