BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN'S "We Take Care of Our Own" blared as local labor leaders and a top Democrat rallied against possible federal cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid and tax breaks for the rich.
Taking care of their own was indeed the vibe Thursday in front of the Social Security Administration building at 4th and Spring Garden streets.
"Do not mess with our Social Security, don't mess with Medicare, do not mess with Medicaid," Rep. Bob Brady, the city Democratic leader, told a crowd of union members and community supporters.
"I've just got to talk to my mother to put some fire in me, to make sure they don't touch her Social Security," Brady said. He said bills are rising for the elderly, but Social Security isn't covering their expenses.
Steep federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, are slated to take effect in January, including $11 billion slashed in Medicare funding. Unless a bi-partisan compromise billed as a "Grand Bargain," is negotiated soon, $110 billion will be eliminated Jan. 2 in the first round of cuts.
Combined with the expiration of federal income-tax cuts enacted in the 2000s, the crisis is known as "the fiscal cliff." But labor leaders do not want any looming compromise to include spending cuts to important social programs.
"We need them [Congress] to get together in the next couple of weeks [and] find a way to fix things without taking away our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They cannot do that," said Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.
"They are not congresspeople for themselves or for the rich. They are congresspeople for everybody, for all America, Democrat and Republican, to protect Social Security," Brady said.
"Labor sent a message," said Brady about its overwhelming support for President Obama's re-election.
"Find a way to fix it, don't throw it away," Eiding said. He proposed ending the current lid on high-earners paying into Social Security so that "everybody who's working pays," to help solve any Social Security funding problems.
"We still need that extra leg [Social Security] to help us to retire and have a comfortable life. We're not looking for the world, just to be comfortable," said Paul Kelley, a member of the United Steel Workers.
"If you look at Dunkin' Donuts and other places, there's more and more older people working because they can't afford not to," Eiding said about retirees' need for the federal entitlement.
"Today's the day we start sending the message to the lame-duck Congress that we're here, we're not going away [and] we're going to support Bob Brady and all those other people who know how to take care of working people," Eiding said.
Contact Sara Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org.