Concerns over the proposed Chained Consumer Price Index, which would lower retiree Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Social Security, headed the list of concerns for delegates attending the Retiree At-Large ED 51-53 Contiguous meeting on the final morning of the RA.
Terming "senior power, union power," Tom Murphy, ED 53 director, thanked retirees for their activism, and challenged them to help defeat the Chained CPI as part of a federal budget proposal.
"It doesn't take into consideration the cost of medication and other expenses," said Murphy of the proposal, which would hit seniors hardest in late old age, when they are most economically vulnerable.
Calling efforts to "preserve" Social Security and Medicare by trying to gut them "zombie ideas," Loretta Donlon, ED 51 director, credited the RA with reinvigorating retirees to keep up the fight. Act with your presence at the rally on June 8 in Albany "and kill those zombies once and for all," she said.
Joan Perrini, ED 52 director, acknowledged that retirees should be proud of what they have accomplished and need to remain politically engaged. "We worked hard to get our benefits, and now we have to work hard to preserve those benefits," she said.
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler thanked retirees for their ongoing activism. Vice President Kathleen Donahue, who moderated the event, credited retirees with "helping to build the union, and keeping it moving forward."
Nicholas Kowalski, state outreach director for the Common Purpose Project, an organization founded to promote progressive causes, also underscored the importance of grassroots political action.
Focused on the "outside game," coalition-building and raising awareness of progressive issues, the group uses grassroots activism, including rallies, letters to the editor and marches, to generate press coverage.
"Lawmakers read their local news and it's more powerful than any lobbyist... it changes minds," he said.