Retired teachers chapter news

We earned our position of strength

RTCers were among the Sun City Democrats gathering to rally for President Obama outside the Sun City Anthem polling place in Nevada.

Members in Nevada rally for the endorsed candidates.

After some election-campaign hyperventilating for the last few weeks following the puzzling first presidential debate, through the towering strength of President Obama in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, I have been following the advice of stress experts: Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of 4; breathe out ever so slowly, counting 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and RELAX.

I think every labor progressive in the country was doing the same. Although nerve-racking at the end, we dodged a retrograde disaster too awful to imagine. We dodged it by rolling up our union sleeves and doing what we do best: political action.

In an email message to volunteers just before his acceptance speech, President Obama noted, “This wasn’t fate and it wasn’t an accident. You made this happen.”

That “you” includes the scores of UFT retirees who worked tirelessly across the country to make this tremendous victory happen. Beginning in October and working right up to Election Day, 32 UFT retirees worked 12-hour days for 10- to 12-day stretches in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio. They knocked on doors, staffed phone banks and distributed literature. They helped deliver Ohio for Obama.

Scores more did the same in New Hampshire, another win for the Democratic ticket.

George Caulfield, who coordinates our retirees for these campaigns, reports that at least 10 retirees who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy either as they tried to get home or get out to the important swing states for the final, crucial week of the campaign, “were persistent and flexible and eventually reached their destinations.”

One retiree who suffered a bad fall while campaigning was still at it as the EMS team took her to the hospital, pressing them to vote for Obama.

we-earned-our-position-of-strength-3Campaigning in Florida with AFT President Randi Weingarten (center, blue shirt) are RTC members (front, from left) Allan Priesel, Sheila Solow, Rita Josephson, Marna Davidson, Barbara Salamon and Florence Fidell, and (back, from left) Ken Goodfriend,Michael Silvergleid and Sheldon Walitt. Florida, which finally made it into the Obama win column, got a boost from UFT/RTCers busy on phone banks and very active in local political groups, especially along the I-4 corridor. If they needed any extra motivation they got it with an October visit from UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

And the Nevada win was helped by the outsized job of our retiree volunteers coordinated by Richie Miller.

Out-of-state retirees were also reminded of the importance of this election by a punchy flier sent out by the union to counter the Romney-Ryan lies about Medicare and to remind members of the soaring out-of-pocket costs that would result if Medicare became a voucher system.

Here at UFT headquarters, retirees wearing blue Obama-Biden T-shirts made up to 8,000 calls a day working four-hour shifts, four days a week for four weeks to get out the vote here and in swing states. Political Action Coordinator Millie Glaberman spoke of their “amazing spirit and political savvy.”

One of the phone bankers had just returned from a two-week stretch campaigning in Ohio.

But as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pointed out, after the celebrating is over, “we have a huge fight on our hands ... we must fight like hell for the working people in our communities.”

He challenges us “to make sure the rich pay their fair share, there are no cuts to our benefits, and that programs that safeguard our country’s future — like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are safe for generations to come.”

We will certainly be part of that fight.

Now we can consign to our memory banks phrases like: structural advantage, game change, margin of error, path to 270 electoral votes, down ticket coattails. New phrases to focus on? Fiscal cliff, entitlements (hate it!), Simpson-Bowles, lame-duck Congress, sequestration, debt ceiling. And looming large: the mayoral election.

Together we will face them all from a renewed position of strength — one that we just earned.

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