July 24, 2015
By Clyde Weiss
Washington, DC – More than 100 retirees gathered for the Alliance for Retired Americans Legislative Conference and the Annual AFSCME Retiree Council meeting in the nation’s capital the week of July 10th, lobbying lawmakers to protect Social Security, Medicare and public pensions – programs under threat from corporate-backed lawmakers.
AFSCME retirees do have victories to celebrate, however. Addressing the Retiree Council July 10, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders cited to recent achievements. “In Nevada, retirees defeated a plan to turn the defined benefit (pension) plan into a risky defined contribution scheme,” he said. Also, in Texas, AFSCME Retirees helped save a pension system “in danger of collapsing” through 20 years of under-funding.
“They reached out to 6,500 retirees, lobbied legislators, testified at hearings and partnered with working members and with other groups,” President Saunders said. “This spring, the legislature passed a plan to fully fund the pension, without cutting retirement benefits or employee pay.”
President Saunders added, “We’re building on our success at a critical time for our union,” referring to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association that “targets all public-sector workers.”
“By taking this case, the court is revisiting a decision that’s made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities,” he said. Responding to that threat, AFSCME members are now engaged in a campaign we call AFSCME Strong.
“Our campaign, AFSCME Strong, is all about coming together to achieve our goals for the future,” President Saunders explained. “We are preparing for the worst-case scenario: a ruling that undercuts workers’ rights and public-sector unions and eliminates fair share fees.
“There are no fee payers in AFSCME Retirees. You’ve made the choice to join because you understand what’s at stake,” he said. “That’s why we need you to be part of AFSCME Strong, to share your stories of solidarity and what it’s meant for you.”