Larry Sillanpa

On Thursday, October 8 at 6:00 p.m. in the Duluth Labor Temple’s Wellstone Hall Buddy Robinson of the Citizens Federation Northeast will present a workshop on “Growing the Movement to Protect and Expand Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The workshop will occur just prior to the Duluth Central Labor Body meeting which begins at 7:00 p.m.

Robinson says the purpose of the workshop is to give people tools – facts and messages – to talk effectively with others who may not be “in the choir” about the need to fight to protect and expand these vital programs. You’ll learn key points on how to combat the misinformation and scare tactics about them, and learn how to tailor what you say depending on your audience. 

“It’s critical to protect these programs for future generations,” Robinson said. “Young people especially are getting a lot of bad information that makes it sound like these earned benefit programs won’t be there for them when it’s their turn to retire or use them.” 

This is a version of the workshop that Robinson presented to over 80 delegates at the Minnesota AFL-CIO State Retirees Convention last week in St. Paul. 

“Buddy’s presentation was very positive and very well received,” said State Retirees President Bill Moore, who has a vast knowledge of Social Security and done trainings on the program. “He had great information and really good slides. We’ll continue to work with him and other groups are interested too.”

Moore said Education Minnesota delegates want Robinson to lead a train the trainer program. The Painters & Allied Trades are looking to have him address their apprentices.

“Buddy’s on to something here and we know this isn’t an old people’s issue,” Moore said.

But recent attacks on Social Security have been aimed at young people, perhaps to make them less supportive of the program, along with Medicare, that ended poverty for many of America’s seniors.

Social Security benefits traditionally have been protected from debt collectors. But Republicans in Congress— always looking for an opportunity to cut Social Security benefits—created a loophole in 1996 that allowed outstanding federal student loan debt to be taken from the benefits that help recipients pay for medication, food and basic necessities.

Right now, more than 700,000 people currently getting Social Security benefits are still paying student loans and 160,000 of them are having their Social Security checks garnished to pay off student loans. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan can stop that practice. They could issue a moratorium or an administrative solution to stop the garnishment of people’s Social Security benefits to pay for their student loan debt.