Retired from the job, but not from activism

As the year comes to a close, I am celebrating the incredible surge of worker activism in 2023. Current and future members of AFSCME and many other unions were in the streets, on the picket lines, and at the bargaining table demanding fairness and respect. I want to also take a moment to recognize and celebrate some of the most inspiring activists in our AFSCME family: AFSCME retirees.

AFSCME retirees have been making their voices heard as advocates, as volunteer member organizers, as political mobilizers, and as chapter builders like never before. You can find a series of Facebook posts on my AFSCMEElissa Facebook page telling some of their stories.

In Texas, it’s a tough political climate for workers. But Luther Elmore and Chapter 12 retirees are mobilizing to improve Texas retiree benefits, no matter the obstacles. They’ve testified at the state legislature, knocked on the doors of legislators, and sent hand-written postcards encouraging their representatives to support pro-retiree bills. They’ll continue advocating into 2024, and as long as it takes, to improve retirement security for Texas retirees.

In Ohio, Margaret Dave-Smith is using her organizing passion to build and strengthen her chapter, OHWV Chapter 1184. Margaret says, “Serving on the organizing committee gave me a better idea of how our union functions. Being a part of something and helping build retiree participation strengthens our union.” Margaret believes the best way to engage with retirees and future retirees is to educate and encourage them.

Retirees have also been flexing their political muscle this year. In Pennsylvania, Sheila Bennett has been organizing her fellow Chapter 1199C retirees into a get-out-the-vote powerhouse. This year they organized a massive phone-banking operation and called thousands of fellow retirees to encourage them to elect pro-worker candidates. Sheila says, “I’m an AFSCME PEOPLE member, and even if our opponents have millions of dollars, we have a voice. We change things by getting out to vote.”

And in Nevada and Washington, D.C., Carol Matrone has been using her voice to holler for pro-worker policies. This October, Carol joined AFSCME retirees from across the country for a lobbying day on Capitol Hill. She encouraged her legislators to increase Social Security benefits and fund our federal government and public services. Carol shared, “Being active on the state level as a member and now as a retiree has afforded me the opportunity to have my voice heard.”

It has been an amazing year for union activism — including AFSCME retiree activism. And we are not the only ones celebrating that. The vast majority of Americans were also rooting for museum workers, actors, public employees, and auto workers who were on strike for better contracts in 2023. A recent AFL-CIO poll showed that 75% of Americans support workers who go on strike to win better wages, benefits and working conditions. For Americans under the age of 30, that number skyrockets to 90%.

Let me underline that last point. Nine out of 10 Americans under the age of 30 support workers who are taking action to improve our lives on the job. That’s a huge deal, and a huge opportunity for us to grow our movement and our union. As we head into the final weeks of the year, I am hoping that you have a chance to relax, recharge and reconnect with friends and family. I look forward to organizing, mobilizing, and building power with you in 2024!