January 22, 2018

Retirees Hold State Convention

Texas retirees set new “firsts” at our convention in Austin on January 19. It was the first time that our state meeting represented seven active chapters – one in each of the major metropolitan areas. It was the first time that a major leader from the national Alliance for Retired Americans attended – Field Organizer Brendan Kelly gave a report and also swore in the officers. It was the first time that Tony Padilla of Buda, Texas, has taken over this essential part of the Texas labor movement!

Field Organizer Brendan Kelly
Field Organizer Brendan Kelly

Padilla of the Machinists’ union was elected President. Lewis Fulbright of the Postal Employees was re-elected Treasurer. Gene Lantz of the Autoworkers union was elected Secretary.

2018 officers sworn in by Brendan Kelly
2018 officers sworn in by Brendan Kelly

On a motion from Padilla, the convention voted to renew our financial arrangement with national for payment of their Texas Field Organizer. Judy Bryant of Dallas and of the Teachers’ union continues in that post.

In the national report, Brendan Kelly said that Texas is a “leading example” among the 36 states that are presently chartered. ARA has 36 states chartered. Strong retiree groups will be needed, he said, because certain politicians, most notably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are coming at us hard. The newest toolkit from national is titled “2018 Save Medicare& Medicaid.”

Kelly recapped the so-called “spending bill” that just became law. He said, “It was actually a budget with tax information inside it. That’s how they got away with only 51 votes.” Retirees had hoped for real tax reform that would have left us better off, instead of what the Republicans passed. The new legislation “creates conditions for cuts to Medicare/Medicaid.”

Kelly encouraged Texas retirees to continue our strong activism. One of the things we often do is visit congresspersons in their home districts. Kelly said the next scheduled recesses will be Jan 21-28, Feb 18-25, and March 25-April 9. National will continue to provide the free telephone hot line for lobbying work: 866-828-4162.

Questions for Kelly came hot and fast. Texas activists want to know about anticipated future legislation, about ways to measure our growing political effectiveness, about the effect of military spending on retiree benefits, about how we can defend Social Security, and about activities in May (Older Americans Month). Kelly warned the group that certain phony organizations are being set up to develop support for devastating retiree benefits. Everyone must be on guard.

The rest of the convention agenda was all Texas-grown. Speakers talked about our successes in the past and our future intentions. Ted Melina-Raab came from the Texas American Federation of Teachers to talk especially about the attacks against the pensions and health care needed by public sector workers and retirees. He summed up the attitudes of many Texas politicians: “They hate the public sector.”

Several speakers encouraged all activists to sharpen their communications skills by learning and using social media. Fernando Rojas of the Dallas Chapter gave a presentation on a precinct-by-precinct approach to building TARA and winning the elections. Reverend Harmon Dent, head of the Golden Triangle chapter that meets in Beaumont, talked about a faith-based approach to strengthening the retiree movement. His church has already had a 2018 voter registration drive!

Other chapter presidents reported their activities and gave suggestions for future success. Elaine Jones talked about how to avoid financial scams. Texas AFL-CIO leaders Rick Levy and Montserrat Garibay gave a quick overview of state labor activities and plans.

So far, the Texas Alliance and our partners in other organizations have had great success in fighting off attacks from Texas government. But the battle goes on.

Some of the convention activities were just for fun. Jack McCabe recited while Thom World Poet played the guitar. The convention ended loud and strong with the singing of our Texas Alliance Anthem. See our Facebook page for more comments and photos.

-–Gene Lantz, Secretary

Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund


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