With a presidential election looming and a constitutional convention vote on next year’s horizon, politics took center stage at this week’s Retiree Contiguous Election District At-Large 51-53 meeting at NYSUT headquarters in Albany. Speaker after speaker urged retiree activists to keep doing what they do best — mobilizing members and getting out the vote.
Florence McCue, ED 51-53 at-large director, welcomed the retiree leaders, saluted them for their leadership and thanked the NYSUT officers for supporting the retiree program. “NYSUT retirees are active, smart and we vote - everyone counts on us,” said McCue.
“Thank you for continuing to be advocates for retiree issues, in-service issues and NYSUT issues statewide,” said union Vice President Paul Pecorale, whose office oversees retiree concerns. He introduced a new grant program for NYSUT Retiree Councils. Offered in conjunction with the NYSUT Program Services Department and NYSUT VOTE-COPE for up to $1,000, the grants “can be used for anything that builds the capacity of your retiree council,” he explained.
Pecorale also congratulated the Professional Staff Congress’s Retiree Chapter for winning an International Labor Communications Association award for its Social Security booklet, Defending the Safety Net: A Call to Action, and discussed a Retiree Advisory Council web project detailing retirement steps for in-service members.
Retiree winners of the 2016 NYSUT Journalism Competition were honored, receiving plaques and certificates for excellence in categories ranging from “best writing,” to “best use of social media,” to “best website.”
A changing tone
Citing that the tone in Albany has shifted, thanks to the work of NYSUT activists, NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta urged retiree activists to stay involved by phone banking, distributing literature or participating in campaign walks.
“It’s changed from Cuomo attacking teachers, to Cuomo saying we should invest in education,” Pallotta said, noting that nearly every NYSUT-supported primary candidate was successful. “Our job now is letting our friends know that we have their backs.”
NYSUT President Karen Magee, Vice President Catalina Fortino and Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner echoed Pallotta’s sentiments and thanked retirees for their efforts.
“Thank you for giving your time — you are our 24/7 army,” said Magee, in welcoming the activists. “Although the polls look good, we can’t take anything for granted this presidential election, so we appreciate your advocacy.”
“I’m honored to be in this room with men and women who have so many years of wisdom, knowledge and experience,” said Fortino. “Thanks so much for all you do.”
“Thank you for getting out there this campaign season. I know a lot of you have been knocking on doors and making calls, and we appreciate it,” said Messner.
Alan Lubin, retired NYSUT executive vice president, urged attendees to keep focused on the presidential race. “Only one presidential candidate will keep the country moving forward — Hillary Clinton,” he said, noting that with fewer than 20 days left before Election Day, getting out the vote is crucial.
NYSUT VOTE-COPE Coordinator Jeff Zuckerman made a spirited call for contributions, citing automatic pension deductions and mailers as proven strategies for boosting member participation.
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli thanked retirees for their tireless efforts on his behalf, asked for their continued support and assured attendees he was a “‘vote no’ on the constitutional convention,” which will be on the ballot in 2017.