By Robby Stern
Among the many activities of PSARA, there are two projects I want to share with you. PSARA is focusing on helping to build a progressive movement that includes as a goal the opportunity for present and future generations to be able to enjoy their senior years with dignity and economic security.
Long Term Planning
PSARA’s long term organizational planning process achieved an important milestone in May. The PSARA Executive Board overwhelmingly approved a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) to create a strategic partnership with Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!), a statewide community-based organization with approximately 40,000 members.
Thanks to our members, PSARA has grown to more than 1,250 members. It is very difficult to continue to administer an organization of this size with what is essentially volunteers. (We have a few people on contract, but much of the administration is accomplished by volunteers.)
More importantly, to quote from the MOU, “Growing retirement insecurity has become a permanent feature of the long-term growth in economic inequality and insecurity in our nation.” The harsh reality is that more and more people, young, middle aged, and old, face uncertain and insecure retirements.
PSARA has been dedicated for decades (different names but similar visions) to providing a leading voice in the fight for a secure and dignified retirement for all people. In order to be more effective in the fight for retirement security, we need a statewide community-based movement that is capable of demanding policies at the local, state, and national level that will promote real retirement security.
step up to the challenge of trying to create that statewide presence and movement. We approached Washington CAN!, which also does retirement security work, and asked them if they would be interested in creating a strategic partnership with PSARA. They were very excited about the possibility.
Washington CAN! has experience in creating and working with organizations that serve the larger progressive movement. The best example of this is the Main Street Alliance, a statewide progressive small business association with several thousand members. Main Street Alliance was first organized by Washington CAN! and now has its own governance structure working in patnership with Washington CAN!. Without going into details, the Main Street Alliance has changed the statewide business advocacy landscape dramatically. With thousands of small business members, they have been a voice for progressive changes while also representing the needs of small businesses.
With the model of the Main Street Alliance in mind, and also realizing that PSARA already has a dynamic presence primarily in the Seattle region and a very effective governance structure, we began discussions with Washington CAN! about a strategic partnership. The partnership includes a contract with Washington CAN! to handle a large proportion of our administrative work, assistance for PSARA with grant writing and fund-raising, and joint work on policy issues where our interests are aligned.
The PSARA Long Term Planning Committee, under the capable guidance of PSARA member Alice Ito, developed, along with Washington CAN! leaders and staff, an outline of what became a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations. At the same time, a number of PSARA leaders met with a significant number of Washington CAN! leaders and staff to get to know each other better and learn about each other’s organization.
In May, the Memorandum of Understanding was approved by the PSARA Executive Board and the leadership of Washington CAN!. PSARA will retain our identity, our governance structure, and all decision-making authority for the direction PSARA will take. The changes you are likely to see over time as we move into the implementation stage are new methods of communication. For example, we will continue to produce and mail hard copies of the Retiree Advocate unless you would rather receive the online version. But many of the letters we now mail (reminders that it is renewal time or thank you letters) will be replaced with emails when we have the member’s email address. This change is more efficient and far less costly for PSARA.
We hope that through joint fundraising we will be able to develop the resources to get at least a half-time staff person, possibly shared with Washington CAN! working on retirement security issues.
There will be glitches. Please be patient as we work through the glitches. Ultimately, we will all benefit from gaining the capacity to implement a progressive retirement security agenda statewide.
Mark Your Calendar for August 8!! “Medicare & Social Security: Celebrating Decades of Success”
The 50th Anniversary of Medicare and the 80th Anniversary of Social Security provides us with the perfect opportunity to educate regarding our goals for these two bedrock social insurance programs. Turning out large numbers of people at Westlake Park on August 8 can help educate about the need to expand these programs. We want enhancement of the two programs to be a focus of discussion in the 2016 election.
Besides celebrating past successes of the programs, we will focus on how we can help make these programs meet the needs and economic realities of the 21st century. Medicare, to be more financially sound, should be expanded and available to all, regardless of age. Medicare needs to include a long-term care benefit and Center for Medicare Services should be authorized to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over the cost of prescription drugs.
Social Security benefits must be increased. Additionally, there needs to be a credit rather than a financial penalty for people who take time off from paid work to care for a family member. The COLA needs to be changed to the CPI-E (Consumer Price Index for the Elderly); survivor benefits for kids who lose a parent should continue to age 22 so these kids have the opportunity for higher education; and the spousal survival benefit needs to be increased. Scrapping the Cap will pay for a large portion of these benefit improvements. Combined with a small increase in the payroll tax, we can financially achieve these needed reforms.
Please put August 8 on your calendar and invite your neighbors and friends.