Retirees group holds founding convention

Governor Ted Kulongoski proclaimed Friday, March 28, as "Alliance for Retired Americans Day" in Oregon - the same day that more than 75 retirees gathered at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland for the founding convention of the Oregon Chapter of the Association of Retired Americans (ARA).

The Alliance for Retired Americans is a senior organization established a year ago by the AFL-CIO and community-based groups to help mobilize senior citizens politically around such issues as prescription drugs, Medicare and Social Security.

Oregon is the sixth state to charter an ARA chapter and it is the first to do so in the 13 Western states.

The Oregon chapter is the successor to the Oregon State Council of Senior Citizens.

Newly-elected members of the Oregon ARA's Executive Board are Michael Arken, president; Verna Porter, vice president; Genie Uebelacker, secretary; and Don Patch, treasurer.

National ARA Executive Director Ed Coyle said the Oregon Chapter, has identified 2,500 senior activists in the state "who are active and ready for the legislative and political challenges that lie ahead."

Coyle said the Alliance is looking for ideas from local chapters to take nationally - especially ideas on how to combat the ever-increasing costs of prescription drugs.

"Pharmaceutical companies spent millions and millions of dollars in the last election, and they bought themselves a good Congress," he said.

Coyle said the ARA wants to "keep a face" on the prescription drug issue. "That's the fight we face and we're ready to fight it."

Pedro Rodriguez, executive vice president of the national ARA, and chair of the Community Action Network Advisory Committee, said the Alliance "is the only organization with the capacity and willingness to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies."

Tim Nesbitt, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, reminded the group that with the new charter comes a seat on the state labor federation's Executive Board. His message to the retirees was simple, "Get back to work to help build this labor movement and society for all workers and retirees."

At the founding convention, ARA released a congressional voting record for the second session of the 107th Congress. The group tracked 10 issues of importance to seniors that lawmakers dealt with: including prescription drug cards, drug bulk purchasing, Steelworker retirees and voting rights protections.

Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden scored 90 percent compared to Gordon Smith's 50 percent. In the House, David Wu, Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio scored 100 percent; Darlene Hooley rated 90 percent and Greg Walden was zero percent.

For more information about the Oregon ARA, or to affiliate, call Dani Pere at 503-293-2988 or Michael Arken at 503-516-9235.

April 4, 2003 issue

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