Retirees role in the Union before the creation of RPEC.
Union members retiring before RPEC, could continue their membership in their local union. Such retirees had all the rights of working members in the local. The right to hold local union offices, to vote on all motions before the body, even vote on contracts that only affected the working employees, and to hold positions on the state Council Board. They also paid full union dues the same as full time working members. Most of the locals affiliated with the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) had some retiree members. As a result, WFSE lobbied the legislature for changes in retirement benefits for retirees and active employees. They also assisted retirees who had problems with DRS.
The National Union (AFSCME) changed the rules for retiree membership and dues at the 1970 national convention in Denver, Colorado. The AFCME constitution was amended to reduce the dues that retirees paid to a local, to not more than 50% of the dues that full time working members paid. The right of retirees to hold a local union office was limited to serving out the term of the office they held at time of their retirement. Retirees could not vote on subjects that only affected working members, such as pay demands, work rules or contracts with the employer.
Creation of RPEC /WFSE
Norm Schut, WFSE Executive Director, decided it would be to the advantage of both the retirees and WFSE to have a separate retiree organization. He then met with a small group of active retired members to see if they were interested in pursuing a separate organization. They were very supportive of the idea. Executive Director Norm Schut recommended to the WFSE Executive Board at the July 25, 1970 meeting that a statewide organization for retired state employees be set up. The Board concurred in the recommendation. President Jim Cole appointed a committee to develop a constitution.
The WFSE Board approved the RPEC Constitution on November 13, 1971. RPEC was under the jurisdiction of WFSE. WFSE hired Adrian van Elten, one of WFSE’s retirees to work on a project to organize retirees receiving benefits from the state pension plans. The first charter was presented to the Buckley chapter on December 8, 1971.
1974 – AFSCME/RPEC
The 1974 AFSCME convention was held in Hawaii in June. Norm Schut was the WFSE delegate and Howard Jorgenson was the alternate delegate to the national convention. The International Executive Board had a constitutional amendment before the body to raise the national union per capita, which would cause local unions to have to raise their monthly dues. Schut had been a member of the committee that had recommended the increase. When the amendment was before the body for adoption, delegate Jack Tomulty, president of Monroe Reformatory Local 452, very aggressively opposed the amendment. International President Jerry Wurf then called on delegate Schut, who very aggressively spoke in favor of the amendment and ridiculed delegate Tomulty for opposing the amendment. When the amendment passed, both delegates Schut and Tomulty left the convention floor and did not return for the remainder of the convention. Schut came in to work on the Monday following the convention and advised he was resigning effective June 30, 1974 from his position as Executive Director of WFSE. He advised he was going to Washington, DC to meet with Pres. Wurf to arrange to have the RPEC/ WFSE directly chartered by the national union, AFSCME, and not WFSE.
Schut returned from DC and advised that RPEC was being chartered by AFSCME and would only be an affiliate of WFSE. He had also arranged to work fulltime for RPEC starting July 1, 1974. Esther Stohl, Shut’s administrative assistant, also resigned and went to work for RPEC July 1, 1974. AFSCME agreed to pay the full salary and benefits for both Schut and Stohl for two years. They both stayed on WFSE’s payroll to protect their pension benefits. In essence, they were on assignment to RPEC. Schut needed two more years under PERS 1 to qualify under the 25 and 55 provision of the plan. This action provided RPEC with a full time staff to work to build the organization. With the help from AFSCME and WFSE, RPEC became a viable organization to represent retired public employees.