May/June 2022 Issue
April 17, 2022

Union retirees respond to pandemic challenges with increased participation

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT United

NYSUT is ready to resume its retiree tours, which have been paused since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

“We will be visiting retiree councils and finally getting a chance to really be with you,” said Ron Gross, NYSUT second vice president, at the ED 51–53 retiree meeting. “We’re ready to do the tour wherever you want us to be.”

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta thanked retirees for sharing their stories on the new historical documentary that premiered at the NYSUT Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference. “This is something we’re going to continue to work on,” he said.

While NYSUT celebrated its 50th anniversary at this year’s RA, retiree councils are celebrating 30 years of existence.

“When I think of retirees, I don’t just think of the past, but of your central roles in building the future,” NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango told the roomful of retired members.

“Thank you for building it.

You built what we have today,” said J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer.

NYSUT retirees continue to find ways to get and stay involved in communities, elections and labor.

Florence McCue, ED 51–53 at-large-director, encouraged retirees to become involved in central labor councils and area labor federations.

Loretta Donlon, one of the first three people to represent retirees on the NYSUT Board of Directors, encouraged retirees to get involved in local school board elections and in reforming the state’s Tier 6.

Thomas Murphy, UFT retiree chapter leader, shared with the gathering that the UFT reached out to more than 60,000 retirees during the pandemic by phone calls, texts or emails to personally ask: “How are you doing?” Many of them said, “You’re really just calling to ask how we are?” he reported.

“It was a good project for all of us,” he said.

Murphy said that while the last two years have been stressful, the question is “Do you look at problems or at opportunities? How could we not be optimists? We go into the classroom and see the future!” An example of opportunity is with the change in meetings since the pandemic. UFT retiree meetings in the past have had 200–350 people, he said, but the last meeting on Zoom drew 4,500 people.

“It defies geography, time and place,” Murphy said. “Now, our opportunity is, how do you both?”