This year's AFT Retiree Leaders Conference generated a lot of discussion among attendees about building membership and increasing activism.
It's important to instill in our fellow retirees that they will always be union members, said Florence Fidell, a member of New York State United Teachers Retiree Council 32. Fidell was one of many retirees who shared stories from their years of being active union members and the importance of talking about the value of the union with all members—active and retired. Their stories offered a glimpse at the legacy of activism created by retirees that continues with their work today.
"I'm glad these stories were told," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. She called on every retiree—no matter their profession, to put on their “teaching hats,” noting how important it is “to teach our history." But, she cautioned, we also have to teach about finding hope in darkness. "If we believe that our rights mean something, we have the obligation to do everything in our power to save our democracy and to save the aspirations and values of working people. We have to find ways to open people up so that they join together, because together we can accomplish what is impossible for us to do alone."
The retiree conference also featured workshops on the impact of the new tax law; working with the Alliance for Retired Americans to address state legislative fights; building stronger retiree chapters; and securing the safety net of Social Security and Medicare. Retirees also heard a presentation about the landscape for the 2018 elections—and how we can win in red states.
[Adrienne Coles, photos by Pam Wolfe]