2021 Convention Report


Eighty delegates and guests attended the 23rd Annual Convention of the Minnesota State Retiree Council, AFL-CIO on September 19.  This was the first “hybrid” convention with 65 people at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall and 15 joining on zoom.

Business conducted included the following:

BY-LAWS  CHANGE.    The By-Laws were altered to eliminate the election of Board members by convention delegates and clarify that Board members are chosen by their affiliate.  The five executive officers are elected by convention delegates.

OFFICERS ELECTED.   Having received recommendations from the Nominating Committee, and with no additional nominees from the floor, delegates re-elected President Ken McInnis, Vice President Louise Sundin and Treasurer Russ Thornell, and elected to their first full terms Recording Secretary Wes Volkenant and Corresponding Secretary Lois Wendt.

 RESOLUTIONS PASSED. Three resolutions were passed. Creating an “Age-Friendly” Minnesota was the subject of one resolution that stated support of funding, process, services and commitment to senior services and support of seniors in Minnesota communities and forwarded this resolution to the MN AFL-CIO.  Another resolution regarding health care supported HR 1976 Medicare for All legislation in Congress and the Minnesota Health Plan in the legislature (Senator John Marty’s bill).  It also requires the Retiree Council to join the group Health Care for All Minnesota and that we pass the resolution on to the MN AFL-CIO for action as well contacting all of our affiliates urging them to join the group and support these bills.

Communication Workers Local 7250 sent us a resolution about AT&T’s drive of outsourcing, job cuts and union busting. It commits us to stand firmly with the AT&T workers and urge elected officials to publicly condemn these attacks on workers.

AWARDS MADE. The following Convention Awards were given:

George Colby Award. To Secretary of State Steve Simon for his work in the legislature and as Secretary of State in improving election administration and voting rights for all Minnesotans, and especially, for fighting to maximize voting opportunities during the pandemic, especially for seniors and the disabled.

Retiree Council Award.  To Save Our Pensions for their years of struggling to get relief through legislation for retirees suffering pension benefit cuts from multiemployer pension funds. This took grass roots education, organizing and lobbying and finally resulted in success in the American Recovery Act of 2021 by addressing funding problems of the pension funds and getting compensation to individual retirees.

Retiree Council Award. To Board Member Tom Huiting of IBEW 343 for his years of service to the Retiree Council and to retirees in his Southern Minnesota area.  He is ready to help with any Retiree Council work whether it is chairing a committee or setting up a room.  He is one of our top ticket sellers for fundraisers.  Thanks for all your efforts Tom.

Bernard L. Brommer Leadership Award.  To Mary Sansom for her decades of leadership in her own union, at the AFL-CIO level and for retiree union organizations.  Mary has been recording secretary for the Retiree Council, president of the Machinist Local 1833 Retired Members Social Club and recording secretary for the Minnesota State Council of Machinist Retirees.  Wherever she serves, she is a tireless worker, an advocate for fairness and a conscientious and foresighted leader.  Thank you for your leadership Mary.

Bob Bonacorda Community Service Award. To Elaine Rothman of the Minneapolis Regional Retiree Council for her leadership and hard work on the 2020 Census.  She chaired the MRRC Census Committee and worked with many partners in educating about the Census and its importance.  Leaders like Elaine kept that eighth seat in Congress for Minnesota.

Tom Dwyer Political Service Award.  In recognition of Jerry Beedle, who passed away this March.  Jerry was one of the first recipients of this award in 2005 and he kept up his super-active political work through 2020.  He was active on every level of the union from his local to all of the AFL-CIO bodies.  He worked for individual candidates, DFL party units and ALWAYS for the union. Always for retirees and those in need. His presence is missed in many ways, but probably most of all in political action.  One of a kind.

Tom Dwyer Political Service Award.   To Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. Mary is a long-time leader of political education and action in her union, but the visibility of health care workers during the pandemic put her leadership in a special spotlight.  She served on Governor Walz’ COVID Task Force.  As an intensive care unit nurse herself, she had opportunities to highlight the urgency of the COVID crisis and of the vital role of health care workers from her position as MNA president.  She serves on President Biden’s COVID 19 Health Equity Task Force where she is the sole voice of frontline workers. She is an articulate and passionate leader for the cause of workers and unions.

Martha Johnson Communications Award.  To Bruce Yernberg for his years of communication work before and after his retirement. Bruce’s communication style of story telling to make points has been put to excellent use in the many Letters to the Editor he writes to his own geographic area local papers.  He then shares those letters with other union and retiree activists throughout Minnesota and asks them to submit his letter or their own letter to their local papers.  He is a regular contributor to the Retiree Bulletin. He identifies important issues early, as was the case with absentee voting in the 2020 election, and then launches communications, both written and verbal, to educate about those issues.

Don Anderson Affiliate Excellence Award. To the St. Croix Valley Retiree Club for activities in political education and action and community service.  They have a regular program of speakers on topics in these areas and reach out to help AFL-CIO endorsed candidates at all levels as well as working the Labor campaigns.  Members volunteer at many community service organizations and projects throughout their area.  They learned to use Zoom during the pandemic to stay in touch and maintain their programs.

Don Anderson Affiliate Excellence Award.  To the Minneapolis Regional Retiree Council (MRRC) for a number of issue-driven political education and action programs.  These programs also emphasize coalition building with other senior advocacy groups, non-profits serving seniors, and all levels of union organizations.  Specific examples include their work with the Elder Voices, Family Advocates that resulted in passage in 2019 of a licensure law covering assisted living facilities that house huge numbers of seniors.  The MRRC identified 10 political positions in support of seniors to pursue in the 2021 legislative session.  They earned union support to include these positions in the MN AFL-CIO legislative program.  With support of coalition partners several significant protections and advancements to support seniors were achieved.  They have also worked on educating about and working with partners to have more Age Friendly Communities designated in Minnesota and are continuing that project. 



The convention heard from the following guests:

Secretary of State Steve Simon

Kris Sundberg, Elder Voices, Family Advocates

Bernie Burnham, Co-Chair, MN AFL-CIO Racial and Economic Justice Committee

MN AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy

MN AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Brad Lehto

The Labor Chorus sang and led delegates in singing.  US Representative Betty McCollum and State Senator Chuck Wiger stopped by to chat with delegates.

SPECIAL THANKS to Lois Willock who chaired the Convention Committee and to all those who helped in planning and presenting the convention.