In any event, by now most of you know me as being Very Political, not only when it comes to senior programs but Politics in General besides being a very active Union Member, a very active Democrat, and a very active liberal who would fight for anyone's rights. You might also know me as putting my money where my mouth is, and to me that is the most important thing that I do every chance I get. After all it keeps me, always in trouble with friends and relatives, but above all it keeps me healthy and young at heart. At 80 or more that is very important, Healthy and Young At Heart, this could get me to 100. After all I am needed in this world, who else has a big mouth? And, I have been to DC six times in the last dozen years to open it.
Texans Hit Washington!
Delegates to the ARA Convention went to the
nation's capitol on September 7. Leo C. Helmer, an octogenarian from Monahans,
Texas (west of Midland) participated in the rally and lobbying effort.
Helmer is a veteran of the National Maritime Union, the Teamsters, the
Stagehands, and the Service Employees' unions. He continues to proudly wear his
SEIU shirt and hat while working with other unionists in the Permian Basin
(Midland-Odessa) Central Labor Council. This was hardly his first time to lobby
Congress; he began in 1992!
The delegates gathered on the lawn of the Capitol Building for a rally to
preserve Social Security. They took donuts that had been donated by the Bakers
and Confectioners' Union. By giving their representatives a donut, they made the
point that millions of seniors are falling into the "donut hole" of
premiums but no insurance coverage in the Medicare Part "D" (for
disaster) Prescription Drug Law. Even though most Americans realize realize that
the drug bill benefitted drug companies and not customers, they really get a
jolt when they find themselves in the "donut hole!" Most of the
activists with the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans have a video movie that
explains the horrendous aspects of Medicare Party "D."
McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal
Employees (AFSCME) led the capitol rally with strong calls to defeat the Bush
agenda. No fewer than twenty Representatives and Senators joined the rally in
person to express their commitment to seniors' issues and to publicly sign the
"Golden Pledge" to save Social Security from privatization. Senate
leader Harry Reid and House leader Nancy Pelosi were among them. The pledge was
taken back into the capitol buildings to be signed by other elected leaders.
The plaque reads: "The Golden Promise: A Declaration of Unity. Social
Security guarantees Americans that if they work hard, contribute and play by the
rules, they have earned the right to retire in dignity, and their families will
be protected in the event of disability or death. We are united in our
commitment to strengthen Social Security, not privatize it.
'We will work to improve the retirement security of all Americans and will
oppose any scheme for deep benefit cuts or massive debt to fund risky private
the rally, Leo took Shane Fox of Tyler and Gene Lantz of Dallas to visit his
Congressman, Republican Michael Connaway of Midland. The trio also visited the
offices of Representatives Chet Edwards and Lloyd Doggett. Shane Fox did some
other lobbying on his own. Shane is shown signing the register at Chet Edwards'
office while Leo looks on.
Outlook is Improving for Progress in
Helmer had good reason to be upbeat about the future of America as he went
through the hallways of the Capitol buildings. He ran into other unionists who
were also pushing for fair treatment. A group of United Food and Commercial
Union activists, for example, sought congressional help in getting decent
treatment from the Smithfield company.
unionists were trying to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed. It has
sufficient co-signers in the House of Representatives to insure its success, but
the bigwigs who control the agenda won't let this, and other progressive bills,
on the House floor!
at the convention, speakers continued to educate the delegates about legislation
affecting America's seniors. The recent pension "reform" bill, it was
explained, benefitted the financial services industry much more than it
benefitted pensioners. Even though the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC)
will be strengthened by the bill, many companies will find it easier and more
profitable to "opt out" of traditional defined benefit pension plans.
have moved farther away from a system that encourages defined benefit
plans," said the analyst.
on governors' races, House races, and Senate races predicted that more
progressive leaders will be elected in the Fall. "We have a chance to take
and take over the majority in this country." Said Penny Lee of the
Democratic Governors Association. As for tactics, Lee said, "There is
nothing more impressive than a neighbor to neighbor campaign."
got involved in traditional democratic discussion over the resolutions that were
offered. One of them was returned to the incoming Executive Board for further
work. Speakers said that it emphasized insurance fraud by patients instead of
the fraud perpetrated by insurance companies, which is by far the larger issue.
The seniors agreed unanimously on getting national health care. A resolution
calling for a national plan for medical records met with a lot of arguments, but
was eventually passed. Speakers said they didn't want any information
accumulated that might be grabbed and misused by the government.
Texans Attend National Alliance for Retired
from the newly-formed Texas Alliance for Retired Americans went to the national
convention in Washington DC September 5-8. Over 500 delegates from across the
nation participated. Almost all of the speakers and the discussion from the
floor were about changing the people in government this November. The
organization is larger, better integrated, better educated, and more focused
than any time in its 5-year history. The convention made a special turn toward
getting more community organizations rather than continuing to concentrate on
retiree groups that are affiliated with unions.
George Kourpias said, "Retirees will determine who wins and who loses this
Fall!" He explained that seniors have far better voting records than
younger Americans, and our persistent commitment to democracy gives us special
importance in non-presidential elections, when youthful voters forget to vote.
Senior votes make up around 19% of every election, but the percent rises to
22-23% when there is no presidential race.
the AFL-CIO and many other progressive organizations, the retirees' convention took no position on the war in Iraq. However, many of the speakers drew big applause when they spoke disapprovingly of what is happening in the Middle East.
Syndicated Columnist Mark Shields said, "I think it would be a failure
morally and civically not to discuss this war." He drew applause when he called the military action, "A war that was conceived in deceit and borne in arrogance." He joked that President Bush had put together a war
coalition of 42 nations, "...only 3 of which had armies!" If the
United States were to remove its forces, Shields laughed, "Iraq may be
overrun by Iraqis!" Shields pointed out that the so-called "war on
terrorism" had gone on too long: "In November, this war will have gone
longer than WWII... Longer than it took to defeat fascism in Europe!"
were very aware of being in the nation's capitol. They held a rally on the
capitol lawn and lobbied their representatives. While there, they ran into other
groups that were seeking justice in the halls of government. Even around the
convention hotel, politics was in the air. Only a few blocks away, a vigil and fast was going on for democracy in Burma.
To see this article as it appears in TxSenior.com please use the following link:
here for more about the convention
Email questions to TxSenior Webmaster (Gene Lantz)
This article is based on the one by Gene Lantz in the Alliance for Retired Americans website.