AFSCME looking for former members to form retirees' club
Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is working to establish a retirees chapter, and is looking for interested retired members in the Portland area.
"Several AFSCME councils around the country have large, active retiree chapters, but for whatever reason, one has never taken off in Oregon," said Don Loving, public affairs director of Oregon Council 75.
"Our biggest challenge is simply finding our retirees," said Loving. "Unlike many private sector unions who maintain their own pension trusts and such, when our members retire they go into the state PERS (Public Employees Retirement System). Once they're off an agency payroll, their former employer doesn't track them, and by law PERS is not allowed to give us any kind of list of the retirees in its system. So we're launching a new effort to get this chapter up-and-running, and just finding our folks is the first job."
Coordinating the new effort is Michael Arken, recently retired from the City of Portland Water Bureau (AFSCME Local 189). In his eyes, establishing an Oregon AFSCME retirees chapter is a job that has to be done.
"As an individual, and now an individual retiree, I have no clout whatsoever," says Arken. "I'm just one guy that people in power will politely ignore. I can't go to Washington, D.C., and take on the drug companies. By myself, I'm not going to impact PERS here at home.
"But if I can be part of a larger group with a collective voice, I have a better chance of being heard. That's my goal for the Council 75 Retirees Chapter."
Arken identifies four major issues he'd like to see a retirees chapter become involved with right away: health insurance, prescription drugs, PERS and helping to organize in-home health care workers.
"That's sort of my agenda as we start this process," said Arken. "However, I'm sure others will bring different issues to our table, and that's great. We will listen to whatever our particular membership wants to talk about."
There is an organizational meeting scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. in the Portland AFSCME office, 123 NE Third Avenue, Suite 505. Retired AFSCME members are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact Arken at 503- 516-9235 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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