Retirees from across New York state and Florida gathered for the annual NYSUT Retiree Contiguous ED 51-53 meeting in Albany in late September. Led by Florence McCue, at-large ED 51-53 director, participants adopted resolutions for the upcoming NYSUT Representative Assembly, learned the history of retiree councils, got updates about hot-button political issues on the union radar and heard from union officers. Ron Gross, NYSUT second vice president, whose office oversees retiree issues, and NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango both welcomed attendees. “It’s wonderful to have so many retirees on hand for this important event,” said McCue. “I look forward to working with you over the next two days as we chart our course for the months ahead.”
In an RC history presentation, Alan Lubin, NYSUT executive vice president emeritus, recalled the record-setting rally crowds that helped the statewide union win an annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment for retirees. The event demonstrated the power of retiree activism and coalition building for union leaders. “That afternoon Gov. Pataki called me and said ‘you’re getting the COLA.’”
Passage of the defibrillator bill was another important victory spurred by retiree activism. “After a student died during football practice on Long Island, one of our retirees put the parent in touch with us and NYSUT members helped raise awareness,” said Lubin.
Calling retirees the union’s “daytime warriors,” Lubin encouraged attendees to stay politically active. “Attend school board meetings and defend the truth, write letters to newspapers, travel to different states to knock on doors, commit to making 10 phone calls to someone you know from out of state,” he said.
Rod Sherman, RC 9 vice president, highlighted the diminished pension benefits offered to future Tier 6 retirees and encouraged attendees to support union efforts to fix it. There’s a lot of conversation about attracting and keeping new teachers, and this tier is hurting those efforts, explained Sherman. “We need to get involved, in-service teachers need to know that we’re with them on this issue — you know what your pension means to you,” he said.
Gross praised Sherman for sharing information on the issue, noting that “NYSUT is laser focused on fixing Tier 6. We want education to remain enticing for teachers and we recognize it’s a critical need for our members,” Gross said.
Meeting attendees also heard from Pat Puleo, RC 16, who spoke about the NYSUT Legacy Fund which she leads; Joyce Magnus, who detailed the American Federation of Teachers Detroit Political Action Bootcamp; and Bev Voos, RC 6, who offered updates about the Retiree Advisory Committee.