Arizona retirees launch new weapon

PHOENIX – Arizona retirees and all senior residents now have an organization ready to do battle on their behalf, as nearly 100 delegates and guests met Jan. 14-15 to found the Arizona chapter of the Alliance of Retired Americans (ARA).

Attendance by Arizona’s AFL-CIO leaders, national ARA leaders, state and local elected officials, along with special appearances by presidential candidates and television stars, reinforced the feeling that this was an important step. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano sent a proclamation making Jan. 14 Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans Day.

The new state organization, like a god in Greek mythology, was born not as a baby, but as a full-grown organization, active in the struggle for a better deal for retired Americans. Looking around the room at the Phoenix Wyndham Hotel, I recognized many of the retirees I had met on picket lines and at demonstrations against the Bush attacks on Medicare. Several of the leading organizers, such as Luisa Kaufman, now president of the Arizona Alliance, were arrested last summer at actions at the Phoenix and Tucson offices of ultra-right-wing Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

After much pressure, including educational forums and lobbying efforts, Sen. Kyl was finally forced to hold a town meeting on the Medicare bill.

Ed Coyle, executive director of the ARA, opened the convention and stressed the importance of Arizona’s 10 electoral votes in the November election. He pointed to Arizona’s prominent place on all lists of 2004 swing states. Michael McGrath, secretary-treasurer of the Arizona AFL-CIO, called 2004 a “make-or-break” year, and called on the Alliance to do its part in turning out a massive working families vote in November.

The Arizona ARA aims to organize retired union members and senior citizen organizations with community organizations that serve seniors. Their purpose is to fight back against the attacks on the right to health care, on Social Security, and on the education of our grandchildren. The Bush administration and its corporate bosses better beware of these young and energetic retirees!

The author can be reached at stelnik@webtv.net.