Friday and Saturday, November 17-18, Tim Moynihan, Legislative Co-Chair, and I were able to attend an event hosted by Education Minnesota centering on the topic of political involvement. The conference was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center and attended by close to 500 EDMN-Active and EDMN-Retired members.
Yesterday, in Rochester, I was able to spend the day with members of SEREAM. It was indeed an enjoyable event. For many years, the retired educators from numerous communities in Southeast Minnesota have hosted two conferences a year.
The day went by quickly and drew attention to many issues facing REAM members. Erin Parrish, Associate State Director for AARP, lead off the morning as she spoke about several issues of importance for the seniors. She spoke about efforts to decrease the tax liability on Social Security income, the effort to create a retirement savings plan for employees who do not currently have a plan at work, and the pending concerns about health care reform. Information about these issues, as well as several others, may be found at the website AARP.ORG
Angela Lunde, an Associate in Neurology with the Mayo Clinic Study on Aging, entertained and informed the audience as she spoke about the aging brain. She shared recent results from studies on brain growth and memory.
John Wicklund, TRA’s Chief Financial Officer, shared a PowerPoint presentation and handout about many topics of concern for TRA members. Topics included the very good investment year (just over 15%) from the State Board of Investment. This helps the fund but certainly does not take away from future concerns. He spoke about the 2017 legislative action/inaction, and that TRA is beginning to plan for the 2018 legislative session. (Many REAM Board members will be gathering before the TRA November 15th Board meeting to put together a statement for their consideration.)
Representative Gene Pelowski, from Winona, was very informative and thought provoking as he shared his thoughts on, “How Education Fails To Educate The Legislature On Its Needs.” His take-away message was; the best way to lobby is in person – and do it more than once!” I will add that REAM members need to get in touch with their elected officials, screen candidates for pension positions, and then be sure to vote!
Jay Furst, Editor of the Rochester Post Bulletin, spoke about a topic very much in the news this past year – “Fake News.” He clarified several instances in which news broadcasts or publications could be in error, but should not be considered fake.
Of course, Kay Morcomb, SEREAM President, had a few minutes in front of the group, as did I, Paul Ehrhard, REAM VP, as well as Chuck Hellie, REAM Executive Director. Our traditional entertainment was “Humor THAYER-apy,” shared by Edna Thayer. The coffee, juice, ice water and rolls were always available, and yes, the meal at lunch was very good.
The purpose of this message is to share with all of our members what can be accomplished by working together. By sharing the tasks and responsibilities great things can be done that benefit colleagues and friends.
I have had the pleasure of attending several SEREAM Conferences. I always appreciate the collaborative efforts from many members that are needed to make such events run smoothly. I am not going to specifically thank anyone, because I know that very deserving members would be missed, and I do not want to do that. So, I want to say thank-you to everyone involved for creating a very worthwhile, informative, and enjoyable Wednesday in October.
I do think the unique collection of many local units making up SEREAM have created a gem of an association! If, collectively, you had been a building staff, I would have liked to work with you.
Collectively, we really are better,
Recently, a letter from REAM was sent to over 80,000 retired public school employees inviting them to join REAM. They all receive a pension income from TRA and/or PERA. As a REAM member you will not be receiving that letter, because you have already made the important decision to be a part of the team to protect public pensions. However, I’d like you to read its message reprinted below, because it reminds us of the important work being done. Knowing that you value the message below, I now encourage you to be a voice of recruitment for the cause. Share this newsletter, and become a REAM cheerleader!
Dear Retired Public School Employee,
This letter is a special and urgent invitation from the REAM Board of Directors encouraging you, and over 80,000 others, to join us in supporting public pensions. Your membership commitment will help strengthen the voice of REAM as we speak out in support of promised public pensions. The time to get involved could hardly be more critical, as defined benefit pensions have increasingly come under attack.
Founded in 1954, the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota (REAM) is an independent, self-governing association of retired school employees who receive their pensions from TRA and/or PERA. REAM volunteers monitor and advocate for your public pension, which is a well-deserved and important benefit that you have earned for your years of service in the field of education. One could easily think of your pension as delayed salary rather than defined benefit.
Our goal is to protect the defined benefit pensions of Minnesota public school employees.
To do this, we monitor the actions of, and provide information to, the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA), the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR), the Minnesota House/Senate and the Governor, in an effort to represent those that have made a career choice of public service.
Those powerful groups, mentioned above, control and vote on your pension …
When was the last time you made contact, and gave input, to any of them?
By joining REAM, your support will help our experienced team make contact for you, speak on your behalf, and keep you informed about pension information. Think of family members and friends that may be following in your career footsteps, along with other current and future Minnesota public school employees. We believe they deserve to have a voice for a safe, secure pension. Our message is extremely clear . . . earned, defined benefit, public pensions are promises that must be kept. You know the importance of that promise, because you know the benefits and value of having a public pension. Together we also know the importance of such a pension for the recruitment and retention of current and future school employees.
When REAM members advocate, and at times testify, legislators frequently ask, “How many people do you represent?” The answer to that question could affect how much interest they have. Think for a moment … if we would be able to answer, “Over 80,000 from nearly every city and town across the state,” how very impressive that reply would be. We are currently closing in on the first 10,000 with over 9,700 members. Numbers do count in the political arena. Make sure that your voice is included and strongly heard.
Joining REAM is easy. Simply return the membership form with your payment, or you may join online at www.mnream.org
Welcome to your hard working REAM Association!
Lonnie Duberstein – REAM President
This President’s Message sends my thoughts in so many different directions, that a nice, finely blended narrative doesn’t seem possible. Along with that, my space in the July issue is limited because of important Annual Conference information. I am going to leave the current news for others to share. Instead, I plan to acknowledge several people for their contributions made for the benefit of REAM members.
The first thing that needs to be written is, Thank you, to our Legislative Committee: Tim Moynihan, Henry Carbone, and John Fisher. They are the front line defensive team for us all. As they work on our behalf, they embody the REAM motto – “Protecting Pensions. Serving Members.” By interacting with TRA, the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement, and elected officials, they have been instrumental in bringing our voices to those discussions. Thank you gentlemen. Also, on the front line, are four others that need to be recognized for their contributions: Paul Ehrhard, Curt Hutchens, Don Zwach, and Don Leathers. Thank you gentlemen. Thank you also needs to be shared with the rest of the Board, particularly the Division Directors who helped to get the word out to their locals. I do want to call your attention to two fine legislative articles that will appear in the next TRA TRIB Newsletter. Marti Zins, TRA Board President, wrote an article, “Another year, no pension bill,” that highlights the current situation from the TRA perspective. The cover article, “TRA financial remedies fail at legislature,” does not name an author, but I’m guessing Laurie Hacking. I encourage everyone to read the REAM NEWS, and the TRIB, for a sense of the frustration resulting from the last two legislative sessions.
Finally, I would like to recognize Chuck Hellie, REAM’s Executive Director, for his dedication and work on the Annual Conference. His planning for that event should not go unnoticed. Thank you, Chuck.
Unfortunately, it seems that for the retirees, and actives, the public pension funds have become hostages in the political arena.
In a Dream Big scenario, I would wish for REAM and public education to have unlimited funds: funds to be able to compete with the many, very well funded, anti-public pension entities that are out to eliminate the defined benefit system on which we depend for retirement security …
317 Waite Ave S.
St. Cloud, MN 56301