A new appreciation for AFT retirees

This year’s AFT Retirees Conference, held on July 13 in Boston, marks the in-person first meeting of retired members since the creation of the Retirees program and policy council in 2020. Retirees have long fought for more power and sway because they recognize the importance of their contributions to the union, said Tom Murphy, chair of the Retirees PPC. He notes that the establishment of a separate program and policy council gives the retirees a certain “cache.”

Randi Weingerten at Retirees' Conference

Murphy took a moment to remember Eric Feaver, founding president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees and a former AFT vice president, who died in June, remembering him for his efforts to enhance the role of retirees in our union. 

“Each of us has always been interested in doing more because we have great value,” said Murphy, who is also the leader of the United Federation of Teachers retiree’s chapter. 

AFT President Randi Weingarten spoke with retirees about the importance of having hope—and acting on it. “The most recognizable feature of hope is action,” said Weingarten. “We may not win everything we need to win in November, but if we don’t try, there’s no way we’re going to win.” 

Regarding the upcoming presidential election, Weingarten expressed concern about the possibility that former President Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would prevail in 2024. However, she stated that she is still optimistic due to Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. Mitt Romney: Even though they disagree with us on issues like the economy or education, they support democracy.

Weingarten wants to engage people—especially our retirees—in the work of preserving our democracy by encouraging them to take action. And while she wants to see people to get involved, Weingarten cautioned retirees not to take it all on alone. Instead, she inspired them to build a community of people around them to fight extremists’ misinformation and get out the vote.

She asked retirees to use their skills in meeting people where they are to talk to them, calling on them to reach out to five people and convince them to vote. “You can do that because of your personal relationships and connections with people,” she said. “You make a difference just by talking to people.”

The daylong conference also offered breakout sessions on pensions, retiree organizing, AFTerburners (the political activists’ program) and the Retiree Legacy Initiative Program. The retirees also heard from Robert Roach Jr., the president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. 

[Adrienne Coles/photo by Pamela Wolfe]