With a small but enthusiastic group of retirees meeting in Salem to take the next step from fledgling “sub-chapter” to full-blown, official, International union-blessed “Chapter,” the Oregon AFSCME Retirees Chapter 75 was officially founded on April 17.
AFSCME International Retiree Director Steve Regenstreif was on hand from Washington, D.C. to help walk the group through its founding convention. The Oregon AFSCME retirees have been active for several years now with a small sub-chapter of primarily Portland-area participants. With the founding convention, the retirees hope to quickly and dramatically increase their membership through a series of regionally based, in-state sub-groups.
Michael Arken was elected Retirees Chapter 75 President. Arken, a Local 189 (City of Portland) retiree, has been the sub-chapter president for several years. Regenstreif presented Arken with the Retirees Chapter 75 official charter to close the founding convention’s events. (As a full Retiree Chapter, the group takes on Oregon AFSCME Council 75’s “75” designation from the national union.)
A special guest speaker was Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), who encouraged the participants to stay active in politics and noted how much they can make a difference with their time and expertise. The group also heard an update on PERS from Council 75’s senior lobbyist Mary Botkin.
“I thought everything went exceptionally well,” said Arken. “I thought the appearance by Sen. Courtney really made the day; his remarks were an excellent touch. I want to thank everybody who was there, and thank those who were willing to serve as officers and help move us forward.”
Arken foresees a busy agenda, what with 2010 being a significant election year. First up will be establishing the regional sub-groups. The Portland group already exists, and both the Salem and Eugene areas have people on board and working. Next up after that will be sub-groups for Pendleton/Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon.
Arken says Retirees Chapter 75 will be proactive in building its membership and use a strong organizing model.
“We are not just going to rely on lists and mailings,” he says. “We’re going to get out on our feet and go door-knocking and make personal contact. We have a lot to offer people, and we want to grow quickly and do what we can in the community and politically.”
Arken notes that the AFSCME Retiree charter is unique in that the group accepts retiree members from AFSCME or any other public employee union — SEIU, OEA, AFT, etc. A change in the law now allows members’ nominal dues to be deducted from their monthly PERS check.
“It’s not uncommon to have situations where spouses were both public employees but were members of different unions — a Portland city worker (AFSCME) married to a teacher (OEA), for example,” said Arken. “Now they can belong to the same union retiree association — ours.”
Anyone with questions is urged to contact Arken or Oregon AFSCME Staff Representative Dave Raahahn, who serves as the Council 75 staff liaison to the retiree group.
Following is a list of the Oregon AFSCME Retiree Chapter 75 officers. Please note that the District 1, District 2, etc. area designations are internal districts specific to the retiree council and not based on Oregon’s congressional district boundaries.
- President — Michael Arken, Local 189 (City of Portland)
- Vice-President — Genie Uebelacker, Local 328 (OHSU)
- Secretary-Treasurer — Chuck Moffit, Local 189
- Recording Secretary — Robin Mariani-Moffit, Local 189
- District 1 Vice-President — Bev Swanson, Local 328
- District 2 Vice-President — Larry Myllenbeck, Local 189
- District 3 Vice-President — Lou Sinniger, Retired Council 75 Staff Rep
- District 4 Vice-President — Vacant
- District 5 Vice-President — Vacant
- Trustees — Linda Bachman, Local 328; Bill Summers, Retired International Union Staff; and Cathy Thomas, Local 3580 (Metro).