Over 700 Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) members, each armed with their own personal ARA whistle, attended a three (3) day National ARA Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. from Sept. 3-5, 2003, blowing their whistles against President George W. Bush and the U. S. Congress member’s conservative agenda. The Republican and Democrat conservative initiatives include Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, Overtime Regulations, Free Trade Area of the Americas, and the Privatization of Social Security, Medicare, Health Insurance, Prescription Drug Coverage, Retirement, Pensions, and the U. S. Postal Service.

Rep. Pete Stark, (D-13th CA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-9th IL), Rep. Dick Gephardt, (D-3rd MO), and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, (D-10th OH), spoke at the Conference and affirmed their commitment to labor’s priority issues including the election of a Democratic President in 2004. Videos were shown from former Governor Howard Dean, (D-VT), Senator John Kerry, (D-MA), and Senator Joe Lieberman, (D-CT), and the televised debate from New Mexico of all the Democratic candidates for President was aired on the screen in the huge hotel ballroom on Thursday. We were joined by John R. Smith, Natl. APWU Retiree Director, at the Alliance opening day session on Wednesday, Sept. 3rd. The National APWU is currently listed as a full partner of the Alliance for Retired Americans, along with twenty (20) other international unions who have enrolled over three (3) million members in a short time since Jan. 1, 2001.

The lifetime voting records kept by the Alliance and the AFL-CIO is given below:

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) N/A 83%
Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) N/A N/A
Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) 95% 96%
Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-MO) 100% 88%
Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) 95% 77%
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) 100% 90%
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) 100% 98%
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) 100% 82%
Al Sharpton (D-NY) N/A N/A
Former Gov. George W. Bush (R-TX) N/A N/A

On Thursday, Sept. 4, hundreds of Alliance members attended an outdoor ARA Legislative Rally in the Capital Park near the Senate office buildings after leaving buses that transported them from the Hilton. Although we were rained on during the Rally, everyone stayed and showed our support for the struggle ahead. Senator Jay Rockefeller, (D-WV), gave us a rousing call to arms for all Americans to stop the rape of our Social Security, Medicare, Health Insurance, Prescription Drugs, Pension, and Retirement benefits. John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President, encouraged us to take the fight to Capitol Hill and inspire other Americans to follow our lead.

A group of thirty (30) Florida ARA (FLARA) members met with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in Room 716 Hart Senate Office Bldg. at 12:15 p.m. to press our urgent ARA paramount issues. Although he was favorable to most of our concerns, he appears to favor free trade (FTAA) legislation. I brought up the President’s Commission on U. S. Postal Service issue, and we received some encouragement from his Legislative Director, Daniel Shapiro, that the Senator would fight to retain the current federal benefits we enjoy as active postal employees and retirees. Each time I mentioned the word “Privatization,” you couldn’t help to notice looks and words of agreement with our position from everyone in the room.

Twelve (12) of our alert FLARA members had an appointment at 1 p.m. in Room 524, Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) office, in the same Hart Senate building. We met with Ms. Jocelyn Moore, Legislative Staffer, and we received similar favorable responses to our ARA concerns, including the recommendations of the President’s Commission on the U. S. Postal Service. Since Sen. Bob Graham is campaigning for President and had schedule conflicts, we did not get a clear picture of his position on Free Trade Area of the Americas. I left an APWU legislative package, and asked for a personal response from each of our Congressional offices we visited today.

At this point, our activists split up to visit our Congressional Representatives. I visited the office of Rep. C.W. Bill Young, (R-10th FL), Chairman of the influential House Appropriations Committee, in Room 2407 of the Rayburn House Building. We were unable to get an appointment with him on that day, even with the assistance of the Alliance Headquarters office, and we were told he was on the House floor speaking. However, I was able to meet with K.C. Yasmer, Legislative Staffer, to present our APWU opposition against the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on the U.S. Postal Service. Rep. Bill Young had previously written me a letter on August 8 confirming his commitment to Congressional oversight, and he realizes that the USPS is a vital link for all our citizens and especially many older Americans who are living on fixed incomes.

The Alliance activists rode buses and cabs back to the Hilton to report on the results of the lobbying on Capitol Hill. The responses were positive on many of our Social Security and Medicare issues, but Congress conservatives from both parties were riding the fence on several important issues including Free Trade Area of the Americas. An article appeared in Roll Call, the Congressional newspaper, stating that the Republican Senate leadership desire to adjourn the session by the middle of October and go home. We feel they think the Country is asleep and will not awaken until after they have pushed their privatization of all government services initiatives for final passage in both Houses of Congress, and the President will then gladly sign the reform legislation.

A gala banquet at the Hilton highlighted Helen Thomas, former White House correspondent, who has been a thorn in every Presidential news conference since Pres. Dwight Eisenhower. She revealed that Pres. John F. Kennedy was her favorite due to his charisma and leadership qualities, she liked Pres. Lyndon Johnson for his legislative successes with Congress and Pres. Bill Clinton for his intellect and people programs. She admits that Pres. George W. Bush is the most arrogant and possibly the worst President, and in answer to a question from the floor, “Why shouldn’t we try to unseat him in 2004?”

George Kourpias, ARA President, addressed our Florida State Caucus on Friday morning, and it is no secret that Florida is the #1 Battleground State to Win in 2004, and to be targeted by the Democrats and Republicans with a large infusion of manpower and money from out of state. Political mobilization and Education is critical, with fifteen (15) states currently chartered by the ARA, and should be eighteen (18) states chartered by end of this year. Florida was the first State in the nation to be charted by the Alliance in June, 2002, and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans must lead us to victory in the 2004 general elections. Regardless of party affiliation, we must unite to take the bull by the horns to Win!

The Alliance has quickly become a formidable player not only in grassroots legislative advocacy, but also electoral politics where the senior vote is an important swing constituency. Contact Tony Fransetta, FLARA President, by going to the Florida State website at
www.flara.org if you are itching to get involved in this fight for dignity and survival. If you are interested in joining the National ARA in our fight for justice, go to the National ARA website at www.retiredamericans.org for action daily. For the best organized APWU Retiree hyperlinks in the whole country for active members, retirees, and their families go to the APWU of Florida State website at www.apwuflorida.org and click on Retiree to open up a fascinating new world of over 125 other links for information and communication.

Jack Gose, President,
APWU of Florida State Retiree Chapter, AFL-CIO

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