With a Nov. 7 constitutional convention vote on the horizon, NYSUT retirees are putting pen to paper this spring to educate members about its dangers.
Leaders will set aside time at retiree council gatherings statewide so attendees can write pre-addressed and stamped postcards detailing the risks of holding a constitutional convention and asking fellow retirees to vote no. The initiative is spearheaded by NYSUT's Retiree Services Department and the union's network of retiree council leaders and consultants.
"Getting a handwritten note from another NYSUT member makes you more likely to respond and act," said NYSUT Second Vice President Paul Pecorale, noting that the campaign mirrors earlier successful efforts by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
The member-to-member postcard campaign began after research showed that many retirees think their pension benefits are protected from future change — a dangerous misconception.
"Spreading the word that a constitutional convention puts retiree pensions at risk is a top priority," said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, who explained that having retirees speak directly to other retirees is the most effective means of reaching them.
Set to launch in early May and run through Nov. 7, the campaign will initially include mailing 200 postcards to likely retiree voters in each of NYSUT's 45 retiree councils. Writers can select one of five sample messages or pen a customized message of their own. Leaders expect to send out nearly 25,000 postcards before the November vote.
New York State voters are asked every 20 years whether to hold a convention to alter the state constitution. Experts estimate a convention could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and open important rights to wholesale change, including pension and environmental protections, the right to bargain collectively and the social safety net. Retirees are particularly at risk since most rely on their pensions for living expenses.