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WI rallies highlight policy demands that 'retirement be dignified'

Earlier this week on May Day, Wisconsin groups are rallied in Green Bay to highlight a key issue facing the working class: the ability to retire.

Organizers see fixing systemic issues within Social Security as a key step. The American Federation of Government Employees is co-leading demonstrations around the state, calling on Congress to fully fund Social Security.

Jessica LaPointe, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 220, said although the debate has been around for a while, the problems run deep right now, with chronic underfunding resulting in staffing woes at field offices.

She noted staffers are dealing with added stress and beneficiaries feel the impact.

"Service delays are far and wide," LaPointe observed. "It could take more than four months to start your retirement benefits up."

She emphasized it is especially concerning for vulnerable populations at retirement age. Beyond helping with administrative costs, demonstrators want federal lawmakers to come up with long-term funding solutions, amid predictions the program won't be able to provide full benefits a decade from now. Some Republicans have routinely floated cuts but critics of the idea say any future shortfalls should be covered by higher earners.

One recommendation is to adjust the cap on Social Security taxes, but opponents warn of unintended consequences.

Alex Brower, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, which is also supporting the rallies, said retirees on fixed incomes deserve full and expanded benefits for dedicating their working lives to propping up the economy.

"We wouldn't have the schools that we have or any of the systems in our economy without working people," Brower pointed out. "When those working people retire, we are demanding that retirement be dignified."

He added May Day observances, which center around worker solidarity, are a good way to remind policymakers the working class should not fall into poverty when they retire. Similar rallies are scheduled throughout the month.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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