June Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein

A Defining Moment

In 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act (SSA), which significantly reduced poverty among disabled Americans and nearly eradicated it among senior citizens for generations to come.  Nearly 90 years later, the SSA is arguably the most popular legislative accomplishment in American history.

At the time, the SSA was a trailblazing effort because it completely changed the realities of work in America.  Americans could actually retire, and those who were unable to work because of a workplace injury or disability became eligible for unemployment and health insurance. 

Today, America again faces a unique generational crisis where the population of seniors will double by 2050, while the number of people older than 85 will almost triple. 

Retired Americans are at a particular risk because, unlike most industrialized nations, the United States does not provide a publicly-funded long-term-care benefit for older adults. 

The changing nature of our society, whereby most families cannot survive on just one income, has made it largely unsustainable for working-age Americans to take care of their elders as they have in previous generations. 

Additionally, the median salary for home-care workers is approximately $17,200 per year, making it extremely difficult for the profession to attract a well-trained and sustainable workforce. 

Many experts fear that failing to address this collision of factors “threatens to strain an already limited workforce of caregivers; complicate the retirements of millions of people; and force many children, particularly daughters, out of the labor market to care for their parents.”  (washingtonpost.com, 4/2/21)

President Biden has proposed that the American Jobs Plan should include a $400 billion investment in home- or community-based care for the elderly and people with disabilities. 

This would nearly double what is spent annually on home care for vulnerable populations, which would help expand access to more Americans, raise the wages of caregivers, and potentially drive down costs as a result of increased competition. 

Our union strongly supports the President’s proposed investments in home- and community-based care, and other efforts to adequately meet the care needs of retirees and Americans with disabilities.  

The goal of ensuring retirement security has broad support across our union.  In fact, a survey that was circulated in 2019/2020 found that retirement security ranked among the top three most important concerns of USW members and retirees, with 86 percent of respondents saying it was “very important.”  Healthcare came in 1st with 87 percent, and workers’ rights was 3rd with 81 percent. 

When our nation faced the generational crisis of the 1920’s and 30’s, we didn’t choose to abandon our fellow Americans who were most vulnerable.  Rather, we created Social Security. 

We face a similar crossroads today, and we must not be afraid to act boldly.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222