May 17, 2016
What’s Our Strategy?
What’s Our Strategy?
Here are some ideas to start a statewide discussion on our strategy for building a statewide grassroots movement of organizations within Texas that represents retired union members, their families, and other senior community activists, and which educates, and advocates a progressive agenda.
A strategy is an overall guide as to how to accomplish our mission. A tactic is a component of a strategy and is applied in a more immediate sense. Good tactics are those that move us toward accomplishing our mission; bad ones don’t. Some would say that all tactics are good IF, they are appropriate in both time and place. To find a good strategy and good tactics, we need to first look at our time and place.
Where Are We Now?
In the last statewide elections, 71% of Texas voters aged 65 and over voted for the people who want to diminish the right to retire. The two main political parties in 2016 are more polarized than ever before. The Democratic Presidential candidates both want to increase Social Security payments, secure pensions, and advance health care. The Republicans, in general, want to diminish Social Security, cut pensions, and cut health care. Media coverage of political candidates has never been higher; consequently, a lot of people are finding out where the candidates stand even before our organization does anything.
There are more than four million retirees in Texas. Only a fraction of them are formal members of the national Alliance for Retired Americans, and a much smaller fraction are in our Texas data base. But we know retiree activists all over the state. We have actual chapters in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, and Ft Worth. Chapters are well under way in Tyler and Houston. We have good friends in San Antonio and El Paso. We have solid relations with labor organizations everywhere.
Our national organization is as good at providing information and lobbying as anyone could ask. Our electronic communications are outstanding. We are developing leadership at a good clip. Our legal situation has improved so that we can engage in lobbying and most political activity. We have no staffing costs and most of our activities are inexpensive. We don’t have much money but we aren’t broke.
Networking is key
Retirees meet everywhere in Texas. Even in small towns, there are gatherings. Women generally meet at church. Men often meet over coffee at local restaurants. Some gatherings are based on communities. Some are based on unions or workplaces. Some are based on common interests, like quilting bees. Our job is to find those retiree meetings and add them to our network. Every time we link up, we grow stronger. So far, we’ve found about 50 of these groups, and all of them are generally glad to network with us. There are a lot more towns, a lot more churches, and a lot more groups to find!
Anybody can be a leader, but most people don’t think of themselves that way. Also, until they are asked, they don’t realize that somebody else wants them to take leadership. The key is to ask them. Training is relatively easy once people step forward. It’s that first step that is hard to get.
Some causes are better than other causes. The way to tell is to compare them to our general mission. We don’t have the resources to be “all things to all people.” We have to pick and choose what we work on. Each cause, each tactic, is easy to prioritize just by seeing how it relates to our overall mission. Should we, for example, oppose efforts to cut Texas workers pensions? Certainly! Should we, on the other hand, take on the problems of traffic control, urban planning, or environmental misbehavior? Maybe not.
It’s good to bear in mind that we Texans are part of a national movement. Sometimes, our national organization will need us to move on something not immediately important to Texans, but that is how national organizations function.
Partnering with other organizations is important, but it is tricky. The best coalitions are those with only one single purpose. The organizations in that coalition agree on that one thing, but aren’t trying to effect an overall merger. Any coalition we join, even if it has more than one purpose, needs to have expressed limits.
Members of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund take pride in belonging to one of the most active organizations in the state. We visit politicians, espouse causes, pass around petitions, make speeches, hand out literature, and call attention to the needs of retirees in every way we can think of. We even picket and sing songs!
Members help to raise funds and even contribute money according to their means. Members participate in discussions and share their best thinking.
In 2016, for the first time, our retiree movement is legally empowered to promote candidates and causes in the political sphere. While we cannot coordinate with candidates or political parties, we can help them through our own independent efforts.
By carefully selecting candidates and causes, and by applying our resources judiciously, we can help get better political leaders this year.
There are no legal limitations on our right to lobby. When the 2017 Texas Legislature sits down, we want to be standing in front of them as often as possible. We’re in the process of forming a Lobbying Committee as this is written. Their proposals will be welcome!
Growing Our Movement
Most retirees are not going to become active in our organization until they are asked. The key is to ask them. We need a membership drive that uses the best possible marketing techniques. Fortunately, our Membership Committee is working on proposals.