Food for Thought: Retiree Leaders Speak Out
A message from RC 10 president David Golden:
(Members speaking to themselves) I know what benefits I am entitled to when I retired. I know that they cannot take them away from me. I know what good reasons led the district and union to agree upon them. I know what we gave up to get them. This won’t change because everyone agreed upon it and it has been in place for years!
You want me to go to a rally? Really? Me? But I had plans to…
Well that imaginary conversation may have gone through the minds of many of our members when they saw the call to attend the event in Albany in early June. Yes we did have a big turn out that ranged between 10,000 and 15,000 people. Yes that included a lot of retirees including those from RC 10. Yes NYSUT did have 225 buses roll into Albany from across the state on that day. So what is my concern? Well if you note that we have 8,000 members in our four county service area, many of whom are well within a half to one hour easy drive of the capital, you can see we could have made it even better all by ourselves!
But you might ask, why expect me to attend an event that aims to help with in-service concerns? Why should I get involved with issues such as testing when I am not directly impacted by it anymore? While that may be true to a point, it is still true that we are all in this together. A strong contingent of committed informed members defending our contractual rights depends upon a staff population of motivated and caring active members. They need the time and energy to look at the big picture and see the connections between themselves and ourselves. Our tendency to forget the connection is not unique. The in-service folks often suffer from the same sense of myopic vision. Why involve the retiree in our day to day concerns? What is the advantage of having ongoing contact with them when we must deal with the ever more frequent demands upon our rights, privileges, and professionalism?
The emerging sense of separateness, of them and us, has been a growing concern to your local leadership for some time. This is not a new problem, just a more visible one. We have seen it in radical changes to health care plans that come out of nowhere! That you are entitled to health care may be set in practice but what constitutes that care is not set. It can and does change only limited by the reality actives and retirees receive the same benefits. The same as each other, not the same as when you left service!
Institutional memory is what it is often called. These are the reasons the institution made choices and policies that guide its life and work. We all know what the contract said. Who knows why it said that? Is your old superintendent still on the job? Is the same Union President still in office? Is the same business officer still serving the district? Is the same chief negotiator still serving the union? Has the NYSUT LRS person, who helped your local, remained in that assignment? It is the reason we must show up for events such as the rally. We need to renew the connection and keep alive the sense of community and common experience which is the basis of our in-service and retirement security. The lessons we paid dearly to learn should not have to be paid for again by new generations! The benefits that were dearly paid for may need to be updated but they should not be easily discarded. The long view and the change that comes to all of us and our efforts over time may not be casually discarded without cost to all concerned.
When was the last time you attended an event with your old local? Do you know the current President or Chief Negotiator? Do you hear from them other than for voting on school budgets? Have you and your friends reached out and invited those folks to your luncheons or meetings? Do you share concerns with them? Communication is a two way street. Attending the annual picnic, showing up for a Board of Ed meeting, helping with opening day preparation at your old school, these and other things all help keep us connected with each other.
Being active with RC 10 is another way to do that. We need someone now who has skills with web site building and list-serve operations. Can you help? Do you know someone who might? We have a lot of opportunities to be involved and connected in little ways that keep us all connected in big ways. Change occurs, we cannot stop it and we cannot ignore it. We can manage it and help make sure it is as good for us as it can be. To do that we must do something that contributes to our really looking forward to a happy ever after life. Do it!
David Golden, President