Retiree activists flex their political muscle
CAPTION: NYSUT retirees Ronnie Green, Alma Cormican, NYSUT Board member Florence McCue, Carol McPartlan and Kay Staplin get ready to man the phones before Election Day.
Political action took center stage at the Retiree Contiguous Election District At-Large 51-53 meeting in early October, led by At-Large Director Florence McCue. With real threats launched against tenure, collective bargaining and retirement security, speakers urged retiree activists to do what they do best: Mobilize members and help get out the vote.
Dozens of ED 53 retiree activists rose to the challenge during their breakout session, using pay-as-you-go flip phones supplied by NYSUT's legislative department to make calls for AFL-CIO-endorsed New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen during the event.
"Making phone calls to our labor colleagues in New Hampshire for the Shaheen campaign allowed us to be part of the national effort to push for progressive, labor-friendly officials," said Tom Murphy, ED 53 director. "The issues, for retirees, depend on such actions."
NYSUT campaigned at the federal level in partnership with the AFL-CIO.
Seniors back Democrats, union issues
In some political circles it's said that seniors and retirees are anti-union and unsupportive of union candidates and causes — don't believe the hype.
In a presentation before the Capital District Alliance for Retired Americans, Kevin Eitzmann of the NYS AFL-CIO, reported findings from a survey by nationally known polling firm Hart Research in 11 Senate battleground states after the Nov. 4 elections. Results show that union members age 50 plus, and public employee retirees overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates and union-backed campaign issues. They voted Democratic by a margin of 35 percent, compared to nonunion seniors who voted 21 percent more for Republicans than Democrats. "We need to do more to get our people out," said Eitzmann.
Unfortunately, these voting patterns while heartening, aren't enough, according to the ARA. The Republican tide that gave full control of Congress to the GOP is a real threat to seniors. The possibility of cuts to Social Security and Medicare will likely reemerge. "It's important we remain vigilant on these issues," said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, who handles retiree concerns for the union.
RC 10 member organizes SAFER fundraiser
Maureen Cronin Rossley, Retiree Council 10, brought music to the ears of the Schuylerville Area Food and Emergency Relief food pantry in October. A member of the food pantry's board of directors, she organized a concert fundraiser for SAFER featuring Meehan Road, a local band composed primarily of Schuylerville Teachers Association members. The group donated their time and talents, raising more than $400 and several cartons of food to benefit SAFER.
"They're friends of mine, I taught with them before I retired," said Cronin Rossley, a Schuylerville TA past president. "They generously offered to not charge a cover — audience members were asked instead to bring food or a monetary donation for the food pantry."
Meehan Road plays a mix of rock, Irish and original music. The band members are Bryan Alvarez and Schuylerville TA members Dave Mehan, Pat Whalen, Chad Jorgenson, Jason Mehan and Chris Tucker.
Serving residents within the Schuylerville school district boundaries, SAFER offers a food pantry and emergency financial assistance. Members of RC 10 and the Schuylerville TA regularly donate funds and conduct food drives on behalf of the organization.
Social Security, Medicare bills need your support
Retirees got an important win this past state legislative session with the expansion of the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program.
NYSUT activists lobbied hard to expand the income parameters of the program to include single applicants with incomes under $75,000, and couples with incomes under $100,000. For NYSUT retirees with little or no prescription drug coverage through their health insurance plans, this is a significant improvement.
Important issues for the upcoming political season in Congress include:
- Improving Social Security benefits. A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduces a number of Social Security improvements, including changing the COLA formula to better reflect seniors' cost increases.
- Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights. Sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the bill prohibits Medicare Advantage plans from dropping health care providers mid-year, when most enrollees can't switch plans. NYSUT is collaborating with the Medicare Rights Center to support the bill.
Contact your U.S. representatives and ask them to lend their support to these important bills.
DID YOU KNOW
NYSUT retirees who live in Florida can attend meetings of any NYSUT Teacher Retirees in Florida (TRIF) unit for a voluntary participation fee of $30 annually. For information, contact Deb Peterson, president, at email@example.com, or Maxine Knisley, TRIF membership chair, at 772-321-4974 or firstname.lastname@example.org.