June 18, 2016

Texans Strategize in San Antonio

The Texas AFL-CIO allowed the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund to use their meeting room at the Texas Democratic Party convention at the Alamodome in San Antonio on June 17. Over 100 activists put off their lunch time to discuss strategies for fighting for the right to retire in the Lone Star state.
Plans to celebrate Medicare and Medicaid are likely the next big round of activities in our existing chapters in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, and Fort Worth and the three other cities where chapter formation is under way. The anniversary of these great American programs comes on July 30, and Texans have a habit of celebrating.
It’s especially important in Texas because the anti-worker government here has refused to take federal funds to expand Medicaid and provide health care coverage to more than a million of the working poor. There’s special cause to celebrate in 2016 because presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called for Medicare to become available to all Americans at the age of 50. That’s a long time demand of the Alliance for Retired Americans and all state affiliates.
A round of celebrations of Social Security is expected around its August 13 anniversary. The fact that the Alliance for Retired Americans has held back the erosion of Social Security rights against a constant tide of attacks by anti-worker politicians is well worth celebrating.
The San Antonio meeting went over strategies for being optimally effective in the fight for retiree rights and benefits. We’re justifiably proud of our electronic outreach efforts, and we have purchased equipment to implement our training program to get more retirees to use the internet effectively. Nevertheless, the number one technology of the retiree movement is the telephone.
Barbara Rojas, the foundation rock of the Dallas chapter, talked about her program of calling all activists for every meeting. That’s how she built the biggest retiree chapter in Texas.
Some of the great strength of the Austin chapter was explained by President Glenn Scott. Austin is the state capital. Our activists there watch for legislative committee meetings and other developments affecting retirees. Pensions are a special concern because of threats from anti-worker politicians.
Jim Rivers, President of the Fort Worth chapter, emphasized our basic connection to the progressive labor movement. Many of our meetings enjoy free time and space from unions. State Organizer Judy Bryant is taking office space in an AFL-CIO office.
The retirees’ fight against so-called “free trade” was the subject of the chairperson of the Democratic Party in Smith County. Tyler, Texas, was devastated when their biggest employer shut down and moved off shore. Building a retiree chapter in Tyler is a priority for all.
A strong delegation from the Teamsters Union retirees spoke about attempts to destroy their pension program. They suggested that emphasis on hand-written letters to political leaders makes a really good tactic for retirees. They hold letter-writing parties for retirees.
The Texans use phone banking, petition campaigns, visits to political leaders, and street actions to promote retiree programs. At the end of the meeting, we stressed that we do “everything we can think of,” even singing! We proved it when the group sang our own anthem, “The Texas Retired Americans United Takes a Stand.”
–Gene Lantz, President

Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund

labordallas@sbcglobal.net

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