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Rally for ‘Social Security fairness for teachers’

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, are expected to join President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s niece, union officials and others Saturday for a rally “for Social Security fairness for teachers.”

Organizers say as many as 3,000 teachers might gather for the event from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday, May 30 in the Berkeley Community Theater at Berkeley High School, 1930 Allston Way, to demand the repeal of legislation which currently keeps teachers and other public-service employees in California and 14 other states from receiving the earned Social Security benefits they’ve paid for and believe they’re entitled to.

Bills are pending in Congress – H.R. 235 by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Los Angeles, and S.484 by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – that would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.

The WEP requires that someone’s Social Security retirement or disability benefit be reduced when they’re also entitled to a pension from a job in which he or she didn’t pay Social Security tax; the GPO can reduce or eliminate the Social Security benefit for spouses, divorced spouses, and surviving spouses who also receive a pension based on their own work for federal, state or local government that was not covered by Social Security. Both became law in 1983.

The activists behind this rally say these provisions “have financially disadvantaged teachers for decades” by requiring that teachers who worked in the private sector before or during their teaching careers can’t collect full Social Security from deceased spouses or get the same Social Security payouts as other workers even if they paid in the same amounts. These provisions affect not only teachers but many other public-service workers including police, firefighters, and government service workers, they say.

The Assembly earlier this month voted 62-13 in favor of Torlakson’s Assembly Joint Resolution 10, urging Congress and President Barack Obama to repeal the provisions; the resolution is now pending before the state Senate.

Saturday’s rally is being organized by The Grassroots Committee For Social Security Fairness; co-sponsored by the California Retired Teacher Association; and supported by labor groups including the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.