Saturday, May 18, 2024

AFSCME Retiree Council Annual Meeting

AFSCME Retiree Council Annual Meeting

The 43rd annual meeting of the AFSCME Retiree Council was held in Washington, D.C. during the last week of September. The AFSCME Retiree Council represents 200,000 public sector retirees nationwide, consisting of 45 chapters from 38 states.

The RPEC (AFSCME Retirees Chapter 10) delegation to the AFSCME Retirees Council annual meeting was President Clair Olivers and Secretary Nancy Heley, with Associate Director Derek VanSpoor attending as staff and guest.

The AFSCME Retiree Council held a Tuesday evening reception for all the delegates and guests at the AFSCME headquarters, just up the street from the White House, which was viewable as we walked from our hotel. The reception granted us time to meet and mingle with leaders from other retiree chapters. We had a great conversation during our meal with Oregon AFSCME Retirees Chapter 75 and AFSCME Wisconsin Retirees Chapter 32.

Delegates from retiree chapters across the nation gathered at the National Education Association (NEA) building’s conference room. The meeting convened on Wednesday morning and was emceed by Jeff Birttnen, Chair of the AFSCME Retiree Council and President of Chapter 5, Minnesota Retirees United. AFSCME International President Lee Saunders was the opening speaker and brought the room to life with his speach. President Saunders pointed out the annual growth to date in 2023 of 7,800 new retirees to AFSCME Retirees, on top of 13,000 in 2022, and made specific mention to Washington State, along with 3 other states (CA, IL, & TX), as to providing the bulk of that growth. Here in Washington, we added almost 1,700 new members to RPEC in 2023.

Jeff Birttnen, Chair of the AFSCME Retiree Council and President of Chapter 5, Minnesota Retirees United
AFSCME International President Lee Saunders

Ann Widger, AFSCME Retirees Director, addressed the 2023 organizational priorities which included expanding aggressive retiree organizing, increasing digital communications, educating and mobilizing members, and continuing to build the AFSCME PEOPLE fund, which provides campaign contribution funds for federal election races. Again, Washington State was highlighted as the fourth-highest retiree chapter in the country for member contributions to PEOPLE for 2022.

Ann Widger, AFSCME Retirees Director

Ben Hodapp, AFSCME Retirees Associate Director, gave a very informative presentation on retiree organizing, an update on AFSCME Retirees, and innovations with several states on organizing and mobilizing members, with an emphasis on digital campaigns and communications.

Ben Hodapp, AFSCME Retirees Associate Director

AFSCME staff from the Political Action, Education, and Communications departments educated and informed attendees on the political power of retirees, stories of retirees and why they are so powerful to lawmakers, and member engagement.

The day wrapped up with a wonderful group dinner in the atrium of the NEA building where delegates were able to commiserate and share stories with each other.

Thursday was the AFSCME Retiree Council’s Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, and the morning was filled with issue briefings and lobbying tips before turning the state delegations loose to board buses headed to the Capitol. The three issues the delegates presented to their Congresspeople were: 1) avoiding a government shutdown and the impact it would have on retirees and communities in our home states; 2) encouraging the movement of the Social Security Fairness Act, which would repeal the WEP/GPO provisions; and 3) thanking those who voted for the Inflation Reduction Act which included a cap of $35/mo for insulin and allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with drug manufacturers. (Read more about our lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. here).

AFSCME Retirees in green t-shirts prepare to head to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. for Lobby Day.

The conference concluded on Friday morning with a discussion of various tools available to national retiree chapters for digital communications, such as email, websites, Facebook, and more. Rich Fiesta, the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) Executive Director, gave a retiree update, and the final business was the passing of a resolution recommitting national retiree chapters to the “AFSCME Retirees Strong” program, through their organizing and activism to protect retirees and working families.

The RPEC (AFSCME Retirees Chapter 10) delegation to the AFSCME Retirees Council annual meeting was President Clair Olivers and Secretary Nancy Heley, with Associate Director Derek VanSpoor attending as a guest. Watch for a report from the RPEC delegation in the fall quarterly newsletter arriving in your mailbox in early November.

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