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AFSCME Retirees convene for annual meeting, then lobby Congress

Photo credit: AFSCME Photo
AFSCME Retirees convene for annual meeting, then lobby Congress
By AFSCME Staff ·

AFSCME Retirees from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C. last week for their annual Retiree Council meeting, renewing their commitment to keep AFSCME “Retiree Strong” through their organizing and activism to protect retirees and working families, and then lobbied Congress on top retiree priorities and urged lawmakers to avoid a government shutdown.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride praised retirees for their leadership and activism.

“I’m proud to say that retirees are doing their part and then some when it comes to executing the fundamentals of AFSCME Strong,” Saunders told the group. “Retiree chapters across the country are building power through organizing every single day.”

In fact, Saunders said, Retirees have added about 7,800 members this year alone, on top of 13,000 in 2022. Since 2018, they’ve added nearly 80,000 members.

AFSCME Retirees are also high performers in our union’s political action fund, PEOPLE, which helps elect or retain pro-worker and pro-union candidates. For the third year in a row, Saunders noted, retirees have raised at least $1 million for PEOPLE.

McBride urged retirees to share their stories with members of Congress during Lobby Day.

“You can speak to the life-changing impact that our union has had on your security and peace of mind in retirement,” she said. “You can explain the importance of protecting and strengthening pensions and health benefits for all workers. And you can share why it’s necessary to preserve and expand workers’ freedom to organize and bargain collectively.”

AFSCME Retirees lobbied Congress to adequately fund the federal government and avoid a government shutdown – which they accomplished – as well as on repealing the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO-WEP). They thanked lawmakers who voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan, which provided much-needed aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which allowed Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

“One of the things I want to emphasize is that retirees never quit,” said Jeff Birttnen, chair of the Retirees Council and a member of Minnesota Retiree Chapter 5. “And what I would say to someone who just retired is, if you want to join us, this is your opportunity to have a voice, a big voice, and to get things done. We have conservative members as well, and that is because we share the same interests. What we talk about is our pension, Social Security and Medicare. That’s what we talk about with our legislators.”

AFSCME Retirees has a proud history of helping elect pro-worker, pro-retiree candidates at every level of government.

“I think we need to mobilize our retiree members and our working members because both are important,” said Sonia Moseley, council vice-chair and a member of UNAC Retiree Chapter 1199U. “We’re going to need every single person out at the polls. It’s going to be a big, big push. We need to get our members to show our support for pro-worker candidates.”

Council Secretary Sue Conard, a member of Wisconsin Retiree Chapter 32, said the council meeting this year was yet another opportunity to see fellow retirees in person, “to be able to shake hands, to look one another in the eye.”

“We get excited about being together,” she added. “When we can all be in the same room, that’s what gets me going. Being with this group is what gets me through the next year. Our members fire me up. Our members energize me to go ahead and keep doing. Every one of them is special in their own way.”

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