Active Retired Members of OSSTF/FEESO
In 1996, OSSTF/FEESO established a new type of membership specifically for Active Retired Members (ARM). This allows retired members of OSSTF/FEESO who wish to remain actively involved with their colleagues politically or socially to rejoin OSSTF/FEESO. Active retirement offers an opportunity for continuing involvement with the educational community at both the local and provincial levels. Local chapters of ARM have been or are being organized to provide members with opportunities to gather for social events and/or political action activities.
The experience, skills, and abilities of retired members are valuable resources that should be utilized to further goals in areas such as political action, legislative lobbying, crisis assistance, research, communications, and public relations.
Members of our current ARM council sat down with Education Forum, highlighting the importance of staying politically active in retirement. All the ARM members described the value of staying connected with their union, not only for their own mental health and wellbeing, but also its value for the union.
When asked about why he joined ARM, the Chair of ARM council, Manfred Netzel (ARM Chapter 12, formerly D12, Toronto) said, “as a former active OSSTF/FEESO Member and local leader in Toronto for much of my career, it seemed a natural decision to remain active as a retiree and voluntary OSSTF/FEESO member with like-minded colleagues. The ability to keep informed about political issues and initiatives through online and printed publications is paramount for many ARM members. The $50 annual fee and access to an affordable choice of benefits plans with additional perks through the EDVANTAGE program were also important factors I considered at retirement from my employer.”
John Ryrie (ARM Chapter 24, formerly D24, Waterloo) enjoys his time on ARM council and parallels this commitment with work during federal and provincial elections—most recently last fall as a Training Officer for the Kitchener-Conestoga riding, instructional work and program delivery which derived, in part, from sixteen years in front of classes at Kitchener Collegiate Institute (KCI).
For Daina Janitis, (ARM Chapter 11, formerly D11, Thames Valley), the link between active union membership and being part of ARM is an easy one. “We old teachers are not irreplaceable, but we ARE valuable every year that we continue to live. Our communication skills, our enthusiasm for mentoring younger people, and our ability to read and write cursive make us life-Iong learners and teachers,” she notes, adding that it was a colleague in OSSTF/FEESO who encouraged her to get involved with ARM.
Cheryl Cavell (ARM Chapter 25, formerly D25, Ottawa-Carleton) says that ARM, “provides me with the chance to meet with other retirees and to stay active within OSSTF/FEESO and our District and I recently attended the CPAC Regionals as the ARM Chapter 25 representative.” Cheryl’s words highlight the ability to stay in regular contact with former colleagues through ARM Chapter communications, both online and still in a hard copy format. This coupled with presentations and workshops on topical issues beyond retirement concerns is rewarding and much appreciated by ARM members. This continues at the provincial level through the umbrella organization for ARM Chapters, the ARM Council, which organizes a Biennial Conference with delegated representation from every ARM Chapter.
Colleen Ireland, (ARM Chapter 13/16, formerly D16, York Region) has kept it interesting by continuing her political activism, but now with a focus on supporting the Ontario Health Coalition in its fight for Long-Term Care (LTC). She says that, “as an ARM member, I believe that advocacy for quality home care and LTC is a no-brainer. At some point, we or members of our families may well need outside supports that are reliable.”
Members of the council see ARM as the best way to stay connected with the Federation in a very affordable and accountable manner, while still allowing a retiree to continue to pursue or explore interests, hobbies, and social/recreational activities with new or former colleagues. They all agree that not being subject to the daily stresses of the workplace while having a guaranteed (and indexed) pension is a wonderful status to experience every day.
Although each ARM Chapter determines the frequency, format, and intensity of its local meetings and activities, members have the right and expectation to elect their leadership group, have regular financial reports, and experience interesting speakers and presentations throughout the year. An Annual General Meeting is a constitutional requirement, including reports from both local Executives and provincial OSSTF/FEESO liaisons. There are also reciprocal agreements between ARM Chapters to extend invitations to interested members from other Chapters.
The variety and frequency of activities that ARM members can participate in have been limited during the pandemic. However, as both before 2020 and again as local public health restrictions have changed in 2022 there have been regular recreational/cultural activities ranging from golf tournaments and curling bonspiels, live theatre excursions, museum, and art gallery visits just to name a few. Some ARM Chapters have also organized garden plantings, regular breakfast or lunch meetings, and other social gatherings. Finally, active member engagement and involvement in municipal and provincial election campaigns has been a mandate of ARM since its creation some 25 years ago by the Federation leadership and activists.
To learn more about ARM Council, visit the provincial OSSTF/FEESO website – ARM Council Home (osstf.on.ca)