Loretta Donlon, ED 51 director, encouraged retirees to take a deep breath and stand united, during brief remarks at the retiree at-large contiguous breakfast.
"They say retirees are the daytime union and we vote, and we need to get all our people to do that in the upcoming elections" in November, said Donlon, who reminded attendees that protecting programs like Social Security and Medicare are key to a happy and dignified retirement.
Keynote speaker Toni Cortese, former NYSUT first vice president and American Federation of Teachers officer, marveled that the NYSUT retiree program celebrates 25 years in 2016 and, as of last October, was 200,000 members strong.
"It's great to have such a vibrant program, especially now when we need to protect pensions, pension systems and earned benefits like Social Security and health care," Cortese said.
Andy Pallotta, NYSUT executive vice president, welcomed retirees and rallied them for the elections ahead.
"If there's one person we have to re-elect, it will be Tom DiNapoli," said Pallotta, calling the state comptroller a strong ally in the fight to preserve New York state pensions.
Participants also saluted outgoing NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue for her years of dedicated work on behalf of retirees. "Thank you," Donahue said. "Loretta is my ED director now, so I'm going to hound her - we've got a lot of work to do!"
Also saluting retires were Tom Hobart, NYSUT president emeritus and winner of the 2014 Albert Shanker Award for Distinguished Service and Robin Rapaport, former NYSUT vice president.