Why I Am A Retired Union Member

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Unions serve a number of useful purposes for working people. They give workers a voice in the workplace. They provide protection from arbitrary treatment by an employer with workplace rules and grievance procedures. They negotiate better pay and benefits.

But a retired worker no longer has an employer. So why would a retired person join a retiree union? There are many reasons why I joined my retiree local.

Unions give you a collective voice even in retirement. That voice can continue to protect your economic interests. Through lobbying, policy research, and political activism many unions help to advance the interests of all working people, including retired workers. For example, unions have helped to create and protect Social Security and Medicare on which most retirees depend.

Unions help to protect pensions. Many unions provide oversight for company and public pensions. Some include retiree benefits in the labor contract with the company. Some unions even operate the retirement program.

Unions advocate for more fairness in our economy. Their efforts to raise the minimum wage, achieve equal pay for women, or advance workplace safety are good for everyone. In a consumer driven economy we all do better when everyone does better.

Unions help to keep you informed. Unions monitor and analyze legislation to protect your interests. They provide information on your elected representatives voting records in areas of interest to union members. At election time unions make recommendations, called endorsements, on which candidates appear to be the best choice.

Unions lobby on your behalf. The devil is in the details. Unions work to influence the details of legislation. There are many “special interests” busy trying to get their agenda enacted and protect their piece of the pie. Often these groups are not advancing the public good or your best interests.

Unions often provide benefits such as group insurance plans, dental coverage, and discount legal services that can help many retirees.

But for me being a retiree union member is not about what I receive. It is about what I can give back. I have a small but comfortable retirement. Over many years, many activists worked to build this security and the social supports on which we all depend (and too often take for granted). Being a union member gives me a chance to protect what I have, work to expand social justice for everyone, and do my part to keep unions alive for my children and grandchildren.

If you were represented by a union in the past, you can continue to be a member or join an affiliated retiree group. Check with your union for details. If you are not union connected, you can join Working America. Sponsored by the AFL-CIO, Working America provides benefits, a voice, and a way to to participate for non-union working people. Check it out at www.workingamerica.org.

You can help keep unions working for all of us. Become a retiree member.