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RTC Chapter Leader Column

A symbiotic connection

New York Teacher

The acronym FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, was recently referenced in a radio discussion on a U.S. Census Bureau report highlighting an increase in New York City’s population following a multiyear, pandemic-related decline. Young people are leading the return to the city. A prime reason is that businesses are encouraging or requiring white-collar employees to work at the office at least several days a week.

Research shows that those working in person have the advantage of developing better relationships with co-workers and supervisors, which may give them an edge in promotion opportunities. These returning New Yorkers don’t want to miss any career leg up. And while remote work is convenient, some people get bored working from their home or living in the suburbs in general. New York City is exciting. When these workers come in from the suburbs to socialize with friends, commuting adds several hours to the night’s activities — time that could otherwise be spent with companions or sleeping it off. Living in town makes life easier with no fear of missing out at work or on socializing.

What about us? Are UFT retirees missing out, too, when they attend union events and courses remotely? It’s unclear.

The Si Beagle Learning Center offers courses, activities and seminars that were available only in person before the pandemic but that now members can participate in virtually. There is growing pressure, however, to organize more union activities in person this year.

The Retired Teachers Chapter is trying to provide both options, which has been well received. Last November, we held two in-person new retiree luncheons honoring recent retirees to make up for the ones we had to cancel due to the pandemic. Both luncheons were jam-packed. The newest retirees were all abuzz while the retirees from 2020 were more relaxed and sedate, but both groups were so happy they didn’t miss out on their own celebration.

Monthly RTC general membership meetings evolved to adapt to the new pandemic reality. After two months of canceled meetings in 2020, we learned to conduct virtual meetings. Zoom became part of the common parlance. For the ensuing months, participants, unhindered by geography and time constraints, flocked to their computers to attend. Our retirees felt more included than ever, though in a less personal and engaged way.

Last October came the test of a new hybrid reality. Would retirees come back to Shanker Hall at 52 Broadway or was the convenience of remote participation too attractive? And would virtual participants continue to engage when a live audience might dominate meeting dynamics? We have some early answers. Attendance at recent monthly membership meetings has grown on both fronts. The March meeting had more than 7,000 online and 300 in-person participants. The April meeting drew similar numbers. Of course, the new health plan generated interest in both meetings.

I believe there is something innate in our human character that pulls us into social engagement. The union has been part of the lives and careers of many of our 80,000 UFT retirees for decades. Our involvement in the union has helped us achieve professional and financial security.

Some want to stay more involved and informed than others, but all of us have some sort of a connection to our union. Perhaps a fear of missing out has something to do with it.

Related Topics: Retired Teachers