ASHWAUBENON, Wis -- - Wisconsin union workers both retired and active are fighting to keep their pensions, and urging President Trump to protect middle class workers.
Earlier Sunday morning, dozens of members of the Green Bay Committee to Protect Pensions meeting to discuss the future.
Group leaders say they're feeling excited and rejuvenated about working with the Trump administration, and new lawmakers. They say they're working on several pieces of legislation to keep their pensions secure.
The fight is personal.
"When they come back, and say, 'hey, I want to take half of your pension away from you,' you know it makes a big impact on your life," says Brad Vaughn, of the Green Bay Committee to Protect Pensions. "It's a personal story, and it.. hurts."
After decades of triple-digit payments every week into a union retirement plan, Vaughn says stripping that from tens of thousands of workers would be devastating.
"You know, if all these retirees get their pensions cut, it's going to affect the economy greatly, because you're talking millions and millions of people across the United States not pumping money back into the system," explains Vaughn. "Well, it's going to crash our economy."
On Sunday, nearly one year after the U.S. Treasury Department rejected proposed cuts to the Teamster's Central States retirement plan, Wisconsin workers are collaborating on a national level with lawmakers, and other union members across the country.
"We're getting a lot of new senators and congressmen that are coming on board," says Vaughn, explaining how their local grassroots efforts have now grown to five pension committees across the state, and a National Unified Committee to Protect Pensions that has given them better access to our nation's capitol, "so it's catching on big time in Washington."
"How do we get them in the same room? How do we go over these ideas?" asks Terry Black, Vice Chair of the NUCPP. "How do we combine ideas?"
Organizers say a stronger economy has added one to two years to the deadline when the pension fund runs out. So they're calling on President Trump to keep his promise to the middle class.
"The Midwest carried Trump, basically. We're all looking at that promise," explains Black, "and this is part of it. We worked hard for 40-some years, paying into a pension that was supposed to be there."
Another battle: encouraging active union workers to start the fight now.
"It's our job to try to get them back on board," says Vaughn, explaining how many active members have been 'mislead' into believing retirees are stealing their money, "[and] give them the right and proper facts of what's going on, so we can get them to come and help us in this fight."
“We’re not stealing your money. A lot of young ones think that we’re bleeding the pension dry," adds Black. "There were billions of dollars in it when they got into it. Where did that money come from? It was the people before them.”
Organizers say Wisconsin's Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is planning on attending the committee's April rally.