Retired, But Not Off Duty

Volume CVII, No. 7/8July, 2007

Ethan Fein

Retired folks often make the best activists: they’re experienced, they’ve seen it all, and they have more time to spend on campaigns. Local 802 Executive Board member Ethan Fein was recently appointed as 802’s representative to the New York City branch of the Alliance for Retired Americans, which is made up of unionists who are retired from their jobs, but not from their activism. The ARA is the official retirees’ organization of the AFL-CIO. Here’s Ethan’s report.

Why is tenor vocalist Bob Greenberg a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans?

“It provides me with one vehicle for my involvement in the labor movement and with fellow workers, both active and retired,” Greenberg told Allegro.

He added that the ARA “keeps me in touch with people who continue to be involved in the life of their unions and connected to the lives of their fellow unionists.”

Greenberg is the vice president of the New York City Labor Chorus and also sits on the editorial board of the ARA’s newsletter, Senior Action.

There is a feeling that older workers and retired workers have a better understanding of the importance of unions than some younger people do.

The Central Labor Council wants to enlist the members of the ARA and other retired people to get more actively involved in union activities, by attending rallies and marches and supporting the causes which affect us.

Ed Ott, the CLC’s director, is hoping to get more locals to attend the meetings of the ARA and get more people involved.

At the meeting I recently attended, a variety of issues were discussed.

Stu Leibowitz, the chair of the ARA, talked about the value of union contracts to society.

Ott spoke about the difficulties of getting health care improved in the United States. He said that each individual union, each individual business and each individual person have such different specific health insurance problems that it’s been impossible up to now to get everyone on the same page in agreeing on overall policy.

On our end, Local 802 has begun planning the development of a group of politically active members to help increase our involvement in the public arena.

Although musicians do not tend to retire in the same absolute way that other workers do, those of us who have found our work slow down might find it interesting and gratifying to play a greater role in advancing our goals.

In addition to issues like health care which affect our society as a whole, there are specific benefits for us in establishing a stronger political presence to promote our positions as valued and appreciated citizens of the New York artistic community.

We must do this to try to counter the strong pressure that the large corporations which control much of the musical and artistic arenas can bring to bear on our representatives in local and national governments.

We must make our voices heard louder than ever before.

As singer Bob Greenberg says, “Retired members of all unions should join the ARA because it is a natural continuation of their union involvement during their working lives. It reflects a commitment to lifelong unionism.”

If any Local 802 members — especially retired musicians — are interested in joining me at meetings of the New York ARA or getting involved, contact me at (917) 658-6914 or