Retirees work presidential election in swing states

Pajaro Valley’s Julie Armstrong named top volunteer in Florida

Because Hillary Clinton needed to win in Florida, I volunteered, along with CFT and AFT retirees from other states, in the Sunshine State. 

We worked with diverse groups of Floridians in the AFT and other labor unions through the Working America Coalition, a political action committee of the AFL-CIO. Working America fights for working families, union and non-union, in campaigns to elect progressive candidates and pass legislation to improve the lives of working families. Through targeted canvassing and phone banks, we connected with local teachers and other Florida residents, and heard their concerns about low wages and lack of job security in this “right-to-work” state. 

I met a union building representative, a teacher with 18 years experience who spoke about his stress over poor student test scores and his fear of being fired. He indicated that many experienced and competent teachers are pressured to resign. This exchange strengthened my resolve to advocate for the due process system in California so that our students can be taught by knowledgeable educators. 

I enjoyed the face-to-face contacts and talking to people in their homes. They repeatedly expressed hope for change and appreciation for our efforts. I was thrilled to hear a woman I was canvassing say, “I am a Republican and I am voting for Clinton.” 

We also attended picnics and local labor events to distribute information on early voting. Floridians responded by voting early in record numbers. 

Meeting AFT retirees from active chapters in New York state inspired me to strengthen my own retiree group of the Pajaro Valley Federation in Watsonville. I want to give back to the union after being a special education teacher for 27 years.

For all retirees and soon-to-be retirees, AFT has more great volunteer opportunities, which I call “workcations,” to assist in back-to-school membership drives, particularly in southern states with no collective bargaining. The AFT pays for airfare, lodging, meals, and car rentals. Also AFT booked my return trip for two weeks after election day, which allowed me to visit the Everglades, the Florida Keys, and Cuba. 

My trip was fantastic except for one big disaster — the results of the presidential election. After we recover from our shock and stupor, the big fight begins to prevent the rollback of much progress. Retiree experience and knowledge may be more valuable than ever before.

—By Julie Armstrong, Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1936

»To volunteer call the AFT at 800-238-1133. Speak to the Political Department for campaigns and the Organizing Department for back-to-school drives.


Kudos to our far-flung retiree volunteers

OHIO Bob Coble North Monterey Federation of Teachers
FLORIDA Mary Flodin Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers
Pat Lerman Former CFT Field Representative 
Louie Shelleda Peralta Federation of Teachers
Margaret Shelleda CFT Retiree Organizer, former CFT Executive Director