WOODLAWN, Md. - It was billed as a vigil, but it was clearly a thumpin' rally of 300 people saying "Hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."
Organized by the Maryland-DC AFL-CIO, the July 25 after-work rally was held at the national headquarters of Social Security in this Baltimore suburb. Featured speakers included Fred Mason, Jr., president of the Maryland-DC AFL-CIO; John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees; representatives from half a dozen local and regional unions; and regular working folks who related how the Republican and tea party-proposed cuts will affect them, their co-workers, families and children.
Strong contingents from SEIU and AFSCME were present, as well as from AFGE, whose members work in the Social Security complex in front of which the rally was held. People driving by in buses, cars, trucks, and cabs honked and waved in support. Other unions represented included OPEIU, UFCW, AFT/BTU, Seafarers, the postal workers' union, as well as the AFL-CIO State Federation, Baltimore Central Labor Council and A. Phillip Randolph Institute. Allied groups included the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, I Can-You Can, Healthcare for the Homeless, Charm City Labor Chorus, the Communist Party and others.
In the crowd were supporters wearing colorful union T-shirts as well as shirts saying, "Senior Truth Squad" and "Support the Wisconsin Workers."
An AFGE member speaking to the crowd confirmed that she and her co-workers are instructed to say, "We don't know" when people call to question whether they will get their Social Security checks if Congress doesn't pass debt ceiling legislation. "It is unacceptable to have to say, "I don't know" to retired or disabled people," she said. "Cutting funds to run Social Security and cutbacks to seniors so millionaires can enjoy their pools and yachts is unacceptable."
State federation President Fred Mason asked the crowd to take out their cell phones. He then held up a poster with the number of the Senate switchboard and asked people then and there to "call senators Cardin and Mikulski to tell them to vote no to cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid." Mason stated, "These cuts have the potential of creating a 'killing field' for the elderly."
John Gage told the crowd, "We're not through in Wisconsin ...Right now we're standing here saying "Hands off," but maybe it's time to sit down again. We're not going back, sisters and brothers, we're not going back!"
Mason reiterated: "There's a right-wing virus going through the country, and it's up to us to stop it."