October 04, 2017

Retirees mobilized to defeat the constitutional convention

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
NYSUT Retiree Contiguous ED 51-53
Caption: Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

The constitutional convention took center stage at the NYSUT Retiree Contiguous ED 51-53 At-Large meeting in early October. Speaker after speaker urged the retiree activists to keep hammering home the risks of holding a constitutional convention, and the importance of getting themselves, and other, to the polls on Nov. 7 to vote no. 

“We’re moving in the right direction, but we still have about 25 percent of voters who are undecided,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Paul Pecorale who encouraged attendees to keep spreading the word about the risks of holding a constitutional convention, and to apply for Retiree Council Organizing Grants to build capacity within their retiree councils.

Pecorale, whose office oversees retiree concerns, also praised retirees for their advocacy on behalf of hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. “Thanks to your help, we just mailed a $50,000 check to the American Federation of Teachers for disaster relief,” he said noting that long time activist Sheila Goldberg, currently recovering from surgery, is still “making phone calls from her hospital bed!”

Attendees later raised an additional $1,690 for the NYSUT Disaster Relief and Scholarship Fund through a dinner meeting bucket pass.

The two-day meeting at headquarters was organized by Florence McCue, ED 51-53 at-large director, who welcomed retiree leaders, saluted them for their leadership and thanked the NYSUT officers for supporting the retiree program.

Education summer and autumn

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta briefed attendees on the success of the union’s Education Summer and Education Autumn programs. Through the initiatives, activists have connected with roughly 9 percent of the statewide union’s membership, holding one-on-one conversations about the dangers of the constitutional convention and the value of union membership. “I used to see only a few ‘vote no on the Constitutional Convention’ lawn signs, but now I see them all over the place,” he said. “That’s a testament to the hard work being done by canvassers and organizers.”

In an evening address, Alan Lubin, NYSUT’s executive vice president emeritus, encouraged retirees to reach out and welcome the younger generation, and to focus on coalition building to fight back against the current anti-union climate in Washington — particularly the Janus case before the U.S. Supreme Court which could strip unions of the right to collect fair share member dues. “We have a solid group of labor allies” and we should reach out to them before we need them, he said, noting that having a strong social media presence is also important.

Lubin called on retirees to help younger voters recognize the importance of voting, and to bring younger friends and family members to the polls with them. “Young people don’t vote like they should, and we have to work to change that through education,” he said. “They have to want to vote and they have to be reminded to vote.”

Other speakers included Steven Kramer of Feldman, Monaco & Kramer, P.C., who spoke about estate planning, NYSUT Member Benefits Director Lynette Metz and NYSUT Regional Political Organizer Michael Grubiak who spoke about constitutional convention activism.