At the ED 51-53 Retiree Contiguous meeting in October, one message rang loud and clear: To successfully weather the storms of one of the most relentlessly anti-union climates in a generation, NYSUT needs the help of its retirees.
Florence McCue, Ed 51-53 at-large director, encouraged activists to find ways to stay involved with their in-service locals. “I help new presidents preserve institutional memory by acting as the historian,” said McCue, a retiree member on her local’s board. “That kind of help is useful and important.”
“We appreciate each and every one of you,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, who welcomed attendees to headquarters at the start of the two-day meeting and encouraged them to keep doing what they do best — being the union’s daytime army and remaining politically active. “NYSUT is a powerful and relentless union because of the foundation you laid for us.”
Paul Pecorale, NYSUT second vice president, updated activists about the state of NYSUT enrollment in a post-Janus world, noting that so far 275 individuals have dropped their membership. “We’ve learned from other states that it’s not about the immediate loss of membership, but the slow bleed of losing membership over the long term,” he said. “That’s where retirees come in.”
He encouraged retirees to share their individual union stories from over the last 40 or 50 years with in-service members. “Talk about job changes that have happened in your lifetime and what you’ve seen,” said Pecorale. “Engage in those conversations because this is a new world and I don’t think we’ll have a full understanding of it for three more years.”
Training is available through NYSUT’s Retiree Political and Organizing Program, including a half-day storyteller workshop to help retirees effectively tell their union stories, pipeline trainings to prepare individuals to run for political office, virtual phone bank and Minivan training, and a fall postcard campaign aimed at getting Social Security advocate Dr. Eric Kingson appointed to the Social Security Advisory Board.
Pecorale also encouraged retirees to contact his office about $50 classroom grants for in-service teachers that are available to retiree councils through the American Federation of Teachers.
In an evening address, Alan Lubin, NYSUT executive vice president emeritus, underscored the importance of the November mid-term election. “We have a chance to turn the tide,” said Lubin, who encouraged attendees to form coalitions with social justice groups to protect those must vulnerable, including farmworkers and immigrants. “Do more than vote; help get people to the polls and make personal calls.”
Other meeting highlights included updates from the retiree advisory and resolutions committees and a group-wide sharing of best practices. Attendees also commemorated the lives of Alma Cormican, Sandra Bliss and Dan Boone, retiree leaders who died over the last year.