Although they met behind computer screens rather than around conference tables, Florence McCue, NYSUT ED 51-53 at-large director, welcomed retiree activists to the 2021 Fall Virtual Contiguous Retiree meeting in October. She encouraged attendees to stay involved with their in-service locals and “get new delegates involved in your retiree local.”
Ron Gross, NYSUT second vice president, reminded attendees to submit pictures and stories about days gone by as the union celebrates the 30th anniversary of retiree councils throughout the year. “I’m encouraging the NYSUT retiree councils to prepare a PowerPoint about what’s going on in their retiree councils so we can incorporate it into NYSUT United,” he said. “I’m also exploring the possibility of opening a swag store to allow retirees to purchase 30th anniversary stuff — I’m a big supporter of wearing your union colors and celebrating our longevity.”
A big part of the anniversary celebration is the NYSUT Legacy Fund, a new NYSUT program that enables locals, chapters, retiree councils or members to honor activists with statewide recognition. Fund ambassador Pat Puleo, RC 16, presented about the initiative during the event. “It’s a wonderful way to honor people who worked hard for our union and to continue to build and enhance our union,” the former Yonkers Federation of Teachers president said.
Ken Ulric, RC 17, inspired a lively discussion with a presentation about the Long Island Strike project, his detailed compilation of Long Island teacher strikes going back to 1966. He shared his methodology for sourcing the stories and encouraged other RCs to document their history. “It’s important to remind in-service members that it took people struggling to get the benefits we enjoy – and that it was the retirees who made that happen,” said Ulric.
NYSUT’s full officer slate greeted meeting participants. “So many of my mentors are on this call,” said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT president, who discussed the union’s ongoing political activism. “You helped guide me, and today I use that knowledge to help guide our great union.”
“We stand on the shoulders of giants, thanks for all you’ve done to build NYSUT,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president, who discussed the NYSUT Women’s movement and the union’s work to foster a robust pipeline into the teaching profession through its Take a Look at Teaching initiative.
J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, highlighted the union’s social justice initiative “Many Threads, One Fabric,” and its disaster relief efforts in the wake of recent major storms. “Please spread the word about the NYSUT Disaster Relief fund – we help our union siblings in times of trouble.”
Senate Education Committee Chair Shelley Mayer pledged to work with NYSUT to protect public sector retiree benefits in a brief address. “I’m forever thankful to you for the years of service you put into our schools and students.”
Other speakers included Roger Boudreau, Rhode Island AFT Retirees president and Alliance for Retired Americans of Rhode Island vice president, who encouraged participants to sign a petition to repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.
Felicia Bruce, RC 43 president, Ken Goodfriend, coordinator Florida UFT/Retired Teachers Chapter, and Janice Poirier, president of Florida Retired Teachers, detailed Florida’s dire political climate. They urged retirees to help with phone banking and political contributions. Participants also heard regional updates from Loretta Donlon, ED 51 director; Rosemary Catanzariti, ED 52 director; and Thomas Murphy, ED 53 director.
Four proposed resolutions were amended and approved, for submission at the NYSUT Representative Assembly in April.