AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT retiree leaders focus on 2012 elections

Most seniors know the importance of Medicare and Social Security. They also are aware that these and other retirement security programs are under assault. Nevertheless, if the presidential election were held today, many seniors would vote against their own interests, AFT president Randi Weingarten told attendees at the AFT Retirees Leaders Conference held in Detroit, July 26-27.

"People don't have the sense of optimism we once had," said Weingarten. "There is resentment instead of aspiration, and that resentment is clouding the facts."

To turn things around, Weingarten challenged the AFT retirees to do what they do best: educate. "You must create awareness around the attacks on retirement security by educating members and friends in your circle. You may be retired, but you are not retired from educating people."

She also encouraged them to find ways to unite with the community over the issue of retirement security. "We have to make the fight about saving the safety net. And we have to make the case for saving the safety net not just for ourselves, but for everyone."

Seniors can play a crucial role in the 2012 elections, Weingarten said. "We have to ensure that those who are voted into office believe that it is a core value to create and sustain a safety net for those who helped to build this great country."

Brian Bond, director for national constituency outreach at the Democratic National Committee, also spoke about the upcoming election, reiterating the importance of programs like Medicare and Social Security, and sharing how the programs helped him care for his parents. Bond pointed out that retirees are in the best position to talk about what these programs mean to them.

"You are the validators of programs like Medicare and Social Security. You know how the programs impact you and what's at stake in this election," said Bond.

The DNC has built a robust program to incorporate seniors, Bond told participants, encouraging them to become involved.

"President Obama is committed to ensuring that Social Security and Medicare will be there for seniors. Mitt Romney wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program," Bond said. "The election will determine whether we go forward or backward."

(Reprinted from American Teacher, September/October 2012)