The survival of this union — and the labor movement as a whole — depends on the one-to-one conversation, NYSUT President Karen E. Magee told retiree leaders Thursday.
“Use the history, the stories you have, the fights you have had. Take what we have done over the years and use it as your passion to instill fire and fight in our younger members.”
In an impromptu address, Magee spoke to leaders during a breakout session at the pre-RA Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference. She thanked retirees for their passion and commitment in standing up to the serious threats facing the labor movement.
“If the last election wasn’t enough of a wakeup call, I don’t know what is,” Magee said. “We need to have solidarity more than ever before. We can’t show one little crack,” she said, referring to the deep-pocketed opponents who will use any perceived weakness to disarm and dismantle the force of labor.
Magee said the retiree voice is necessary to educate New Yorkers about the real dangers of a state constitutional convention, and to urge them to vote NO in November on a ballot referendum on whether one should be held.
Such a convention, she said, would make every facet of the state constitution a target, including rights to a quality public education, the ability to bargain collectively, a secure retirement and protections for our environment.
“If you teach two people, they teach two more,” Magee said. “Go out and do what you do best.”
Loretta Donlon, a NYSUT Board member and president of Retiree Council 7, said the cost of holding a constitutional convention — expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars — resonates loudly with voters. Retirees can urge citizens to vote NO on the referendum by reminding them “it will hurt their purse,” she said.
Magee’s remarks dovetailed those of Nancy J. Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and expanding the federal Social Security program.
Altman is also an advocate for Medicare and Medicare expansion. All three vital programs, she said, are in the crosshairs of right-wing politicians who vow to privatize them.
“These programs will be there in the future — unless we take down our guard,” Altman said.
Social Security Works co-director Nancy J. Altman.
Recent polls show that, no matter how old or how young, how red or blue, people do understand that Social Security and Medicare are affordable programs that work, and need to be expanded.
Only the momentum of “people power,” she said, will keep the privateers at bay. She noted the masses of ordinary citizens who turned out to protest during the Women’s March on Washington and sister marches across the country, and who spoke out at town hall meetings held by elected representatives in Congress.
“This is not a sprint, nor is this a marathon,” Altman said. “It’s a relay race. We are all part of this team.”
For more on the state constitutional convention, visit www.nonewyorkconvention.org.
For more about Social Security Works, visit www.socialsecurityworks.org.