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  • 279- Retirees

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    March 2024

    President’s Report

         Greetings, brothers and sisters! March 1 is the beginning of meteorological spring, even though the first day of astronomical spring isn’t until March 19. Either way, spring is close!

         Over 100 people attended our February meeting---it was great to see everyone! Our February speaker, Black History Month storyteller Beverly Lloyd, shared an interesting story about Martin Luther King’s mother. We were also joined by Mollie Ann Murphy, a candidate for Common Pleas Court Judge in Cuyahoga County. I hope to see you again at our general meeting on March 19.

    OFT 2024 Convention

         The Executive Council of 279-R sent four delegates to the 2024 Ohio Federation of Teachers Convention in Columbus: Hazel Hicks, Dan MacDonald, David Quolke, and Robert Walters attended. There were 139 delegates from OFT locals across Ohio rallying around the theme UNION STRONG.

         We engaged in conversations and presentations about Collective Action at the local level, Collective Action on Education Policy, Senate Bill 83, and Collective Action on Statewide Issues. For example, our efforts to defeat Issue 1 this past August was a collective action by all of our locals, active and retired. We defeated the GOP attempt to increase the requirement for an issue to pass from a simple majority (50% plus one) to 60% of the vote, and to make it harder for citizens to petition to get items on the ballot. Thank you for all you contributed to this action.

         Our other delegates will share more information in future newsletters.

    Scholarship Committee Request:

    Basket Raffle Items Needed for Luncheon!

         The popular Basket Raffle will return at our FRIDAY, June 21, 2024 luncheon. Please mark the date change in your calendar; the venue was not available on our regular June meeting date.

         The Scholarship Committee will begin collecting donations for the baskets at the March, April, and May meetings. They would appreciate any help from 279-R members who have items to donate.

         If you have any new, unused items that you would like to donate to the basket raffle, please bring them to the March 19, April 16, or May 21 meetings. Gift cards are much appreciated, too.

         Remember, 100% of proceeds from the basket raffle, the monthly raffles, and scholarship donations go into 279-R’s Scholarship Fund for Cleveland State University. Thank you in advance for your help with this project.

    Donations to Scholarship Fund

         Thank you to those who continue to donate to the scholarship fund. Recent donations include: Marge Peacock made a donation in memory of her late husband Larry Peacock. 

         Remember, all scholarship donation checks must be made out to:  279-R NEO AFT. On the memo line of the check, write Scholarship Fund. 

         If we missed listing your scholarship donation, please contact us at 216-482-2281. We appreciate your generous support. All scholarship donations go into the 279-R Scholarship Fund at Cleveland State University.

    How to Contact Us

           Our direct numbers are: Membership Information 216-482-2281; Pension Line (STRS or SERS) 216-482-2282; other calls 216-482-2280. If no one answers, please leave a message spelling your last name, and phone number. You will receive a call as soon as possible. We encourage 279-R members to access our retiree link from the CTU website.  The website address is listed under the letterhead of this newsletter. Check it periodically for other news and updates.

    Enjoy the spring weather and holidays.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Easter!

    Hazel Hicks

    279-R President

    Legislative/Political Update:

    Primary Election Time in Ohio!

         Voting is underway in Ohio for the March Primary election, February 21 through March 19. If you have already voted, thank you for your continued activism. If you have not yet voted, be sure to make a plan and get out and vote. 

         These elections will determine which candidates will be on the November Ballot. You can find the list of candidates endorsed by the North Shore Federation of Labor at www.northshoreaflcio.org .

         Additionally, labor is supporting Issue 26, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Levy. This is a renewal levy and will not raise taxes. Primary elections tend to have lower voter turnout, so please remember to get out and vote. Our voices matter!

         On the federal level, the November elections almost certainly will feature a rematch of President Joe Biden and Donald Trump. President Biden has been endorsed by the AFT and much of labor as well.

         Statewide, we need to all rally behind U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. Labor has not had a better friend than Sherrod, and we need to do all we can to return him to the Senate.

         And while it has not been finalized, it looks like CMSD may have a tax levy on the ballot this November. 

         Congress continues to be unable to pass legislation. Whether it is aid to Ukraine or Israel, dealing with the border crisis, or any legislation that is good for working Americans, Senate and House Republican leaders have vowed to oppose any legislation that would make President Biden look good prior to the November elections. 

         As previously mentioned, last year Congress passed the fewest pieces of legislation since the great depression. They seem to be on pace to repeat that performance.

         Likewise, the Ohio General Assembly has been relatively quiet so far this winter. As we move into the spring, we are keeping focused on their ongoing culture war legislation, and more tax changes, usually to the benefit of wealthy contributors, and more dollars for vouchers.  Stay tuned.

         A couple reminders…

         Signatures are being collected to place an anti-gerrymandering amendment on the ballot in November. The amendment would establish a commission of citizens, not a commission of politicians or their family or friends or wealthy donors, who would redraw the district voting maps in Ohio.

         Ohio is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. Despite previous bipartisan efforts to mandate fairer districts that were passed overwhelmingly by Ohio voters, GOP leaders continue  to  ignore  the  Ohio  Supreme  Court rulings that the newly-drawn districts were still unconstitutional.  Former Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor (R) is leading the charge to get the amendment on the ballot. We will have petitions at our next meetings. Please sign if you have not yet done so!

         Also, please be ready to volunteer for our November campaign: phone calls, labor walks, post card campaigns. If you volunteered in the past, we will need your help again. If you have not, please consider volunteering this year when we reach out to you.

    David Quolke, Legislative Chair

    Membership Report

         Greetings from the Membership Committee! We have 862 members, with one new member joining at our February meeting. We had a whopping 103 present at that meeting and enjoyed some wonderful storytelling. This is the largest group we’ve had since the “before times” (COVID-19), and we think it’s due to the text messages Pat and Ruth have been sending out. Let us know---do these texts help in bringing folks to the meetings and staying involved? 

         March 19 is the Ohio primaries, and one of the best ways to preserve our right to vote and oppose the attempts at voter suppression is to actually VOTE and then get at least one other person to vote who doesn’t usually vote.

         And now, our history: on March 25, 1988, the Candle Demonstration took place in Hviezdoslav Square in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, beginning as a protest against the communist regime’s oppression of religious freedoms and expanding to include all human rights.

         Despite brutal attempts to stop the non-violent demonstration, over 10,000 people gathered in the square. The Candle demonstration and its repression was extensively covered in the international media, and is considered a precursor to the Velvet Revolution and the collapse, a year-and-a-half later, of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

         Our society in America today is becoming overloaded with words, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (Macbeth).” Now we must ACT together in UNION to protect this fragile experiment we call democracy. It’s a lot easier to keep our democracy than to try to get it back after we’ve lost it.

         Peace, friends.

    Alanna Meyers-Kiousis, Membership Chair

    To join 279-R’s singing group, the Melodeers, please contact Donita Rollins by phone at 216-409-8259 or by email at  cobbd52@sbcglobal.net.  Practices will be held at the Beachwood Branch  of the Cuyahoga Library, 25501 Shaker Blvd. in Beachwood.

    SERS Ohio  Report:

    School Employees Retirement System

         Recent Facts: It’s the 58th largest public pension system in the country with $18.5 billion in assets as of June 30, 2023. It has 150,873 active  members of which 68% are women, and 81,833 retired members of which 74% are women.

          In 2023, based on 81,833 retirees, beneficiaries, disability recipients, and survivors, the average SERS benefit recipient was 74.8 years old, and received $16,382 per year or $1,365 per month, which was 17% higher than the federal poverty level of $14,580 per year or $1,215 per month for a household of one. 

         SERS members are the lowest paid of all five Ohio public retirement systems. SERS benefit payments pumped $134.4 million into Cuyahoga County’s economy. 

    Dan MacDonald

    Two Long Days:

    The STRS February Board Meetings

         Rob Walters and Dan MacDonald attended the February 14-15 STRS Board meetings. The call to order was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on February 14, but didn’t happen until 11:30 a.m. 

         December’s minutes were approved, and the new Governor-appointed Board member, Brian Perena, was introduced. [Where’s Wade Steen?] There were to be two presentations, Disability Program Review and AON Fiduciary Services Practice. 

         After Board Chair Price seated outside consultant AON, Davidson made a motion, that was seconded, but which Price ruled out-of-order. Parliamentary issues then ruled the rest of the proposed agenda.

         Ultimately, Price postponed the presentations and attempted to go into executive session, but at the time he did not have the votes. Herrington and Hunt were both missing from the meeting at this time, so voting was 5 to 4 in “reformers’” favor.  [February’s minutes will be interesting to see how this session will be addressed. Motions were made and recorded. February's STRS e-Update never mentioned the issue.]

         The February 15 meeting began at 8 a.m. Chair Price once again introduced Brian Perena and then had outside consultant Cheiron present on Economic assumptions.  [Herrington attended virtually; Hunt was not present in-person or virtually.] Discount rate, inflation, salary scale, and payroll growth are part of economic assumptions.

        Further factors to consider are historical experience, industry trends, regulatory and professional standards, the Board's risk tolerance/preference, plan dynamics, and future expectations. There is still significant negative cash flow. Ultimately, Cheiron’s recommendation was to maintain a discount rate of 7%; price inflation projected at 2.5%; and a payroll growth of 3%.

         Throughout the presentation, there was significant discussion among Board members and the consultant. Later, Davidson moved to raise the discount rate to 7.25%. His motion was defeated 9-1. The discount rate remains 7%. [The discount rate is important since it is projecting the growth of the general fund, and the actuary then uses that growth to determine pension contributions against pension costs.]

         In-house actuary Brian Grinnell then presented a pension system comparison using STRS Ohio, Missouri Teachers, Nevada PERS, Texas Teachers, New York State Teachers, Georgia Teachers, Louisiana Teachers, CalSTRS, Kentucky Teachers, and Illinois Teachers. Again, there was good discussion around tiering, eligibility, unreduced retirement, contribution rates, COLA provisions, returns, purchasing power, and more. [Basically, no two plans are alike, and at least in these plans, all have made economic adjustments to stay afloat.]

         Public Participation followed with 12 speakers. Two actives spoke, one from CTU Local 279 and one from CHTU Local 795. Both should be retired by former eligibility. Both are worried. Seven spoke about COLA and active future benefits. One worried about future investment changes and that abolishing bonuses would not return COLA [true]. One spoke on calendar year returns vs. STRS reported returns. Another spoke on Blackstone Real Estate in STRS’s portfolio and the harm the company is doing to humanity. 

         After the Executive Session and lunch, Cheiron presented the Sustainable Benefits Enhancement Plan. There was a long discussion on “does not materially impair the fiscal integrity of the system.” Again, the Board was thoroughly involved. 

         At about 4 p.m., the Investment Department presented. A statement of objectives and policy wording changes were proposed. December’s fund return was plus 3%, finishing the first half of the fiscal year at plus 4.14% net of cost. The calendar year 2023 total fund return was 11.51% relative to an STRS benchmark return of 12.39%. [Remember that STRS is on a fiscal, not calendar, year.] January was a plus 0.35%; FY to date plus 4.50%. Total investment assets ended January approximately at $91.7 billion, high by $1.6 billion in FY 2024. [Almost back to where we were at the end of FY 2022.]

         The proxy voting policy, summary and derivatives exposure were shared along with December and January investment transactions.      New outside plan fund consultant Meketa, six weeks under the contract that was held by Callen, greeted the Board and shared that STRS documentation was “…among the best we’ve ever seen.”  When pushed by Board members on those words, the consultant stated “comprehensive, clear, concise, very rare for a new client.”

         The acting Executive Director then gave her report, addressing 11 areas in her handout. A few: Your Year-End Tax statement should be in your possession. The webinar Retirees Series begins February 19. [Go to www.strsoh.org to register for webinars.] Sixteen-hundred Defined Contribution and Combined Plan participants should have a postcard for a final retirement plan election. [Most retirees are on Defined Benefit.  If you are not sure, call STRS at 614-227-4090.]  A legislative report followed for a bill to increase employer contribution which has been at 14% since 1984. [Must be done by Ohio legislature.]

         Routine Matters and adjournment at 6:08 p.m. followed.  The next Board meeting will be March 20-22, 2024. You can join us online by registering on the STRS website beginning a week before the meeting

    Robert Walters & Dan MacDonald

    Dan’s Public Participation Comments:

    STRS, What’s Your Performance?

         Mr. Chair and members of the Board, good morning and a 24-hour belated Happy Valentine’s Day. I am Dan MacDonald, an STRS retiree with 38-plus years of service. I am also the Executive Director of Local 279R, Northeast Ohio AFT retirees.    

         I am sure you know these figures, but the 2023 calendar year closed with the DOW up 12.7%, NASDAQ up 43.26%, the S&P 500 up 24.23%, the STRS benchmark Russell 3000 up 23.95%. Are these not the figures we are searching for from STRS? I fully realize that STRS is on a FY, not a calendar year. These figures certainly are not reflective of pre-December’s STRS monthly financial reports.  The Board needs a discussion of the why?

         Reality in the real world needs to reflect the actuality of STRS pension fund.  It is emphasized that STRS does well when the market does well.  NASDAQ up 43%? Will STRS be near 43% by July?

         Cheiron’s report, the FY 2025 budget, the Performance-Based Incentive Policy, so much going on at STRS over the next couple months.  Governor DeWine is looking at STRS closely.  Real estate expert G. Brent Bishop never presented on the STRS real estate portfolio. Why not? Is that the reason he left? Now we have Investment Expert and Senate Finance Director Brian Perena---welcome. Maybe you might comment on hedge funds and fees and the investment portfolio.  Meanwhile, where is Wade Steen?  STRS is certainly into politics and saving its own behind with executive and legislative cover.  When will actives and retirees truly be the central figure of this pension fund which is to provide Ohio’s educators a foundation for their financial security?

         On another matter, hopefully all Board members know that Routine Matters no longer is a distributed item. TRANSPARENCY?  Approved Minutes of Meetings are no longer being sent by mail, although available on-line under past meetings. STRS needs to return to pre-reform benefits for actives and an annual 3% COLA for retirees. 


    The winners of the February 50/50 Scholarship Raffle were

    Gloria Catalusci and Pamela Hummer.

    The winners of the Consolation Baskets were

    Angel Betancourt, Michael Ann Doycich, and Shirley Lyons.

    Thank you to 279-R members for your continued generous support of our scholarship program.

                         -  Z. Harold Davis, Jr.

    R+R Sunshine R+R

    Grace Caliguire passed on February 15, 2024. Send condolences to her daughter, Elisa Kazek, (a Cleveland teacher) at 13231 Old Mill Road, Spencer, OH 44275. Special thanks to Grace’s family, who listed our 279-R Scholarship Fund as a suggested donation in lieu of flowers.

    Oliver Wimbush, husband of Mary Wimbush, passed on February 7, 2024. Send condolences to Mary at 3690 Runnymede Blvd., Cleveland Hts., OH 44121.

    Leonard Tabaj passed on January 17, 2024.  Send condolences to his wife, Kathleen, at 3765 E. Lake Road, Apt.18, Sheffield Lake, OH 44054.

    Eliza Edward’s daughter, Wanda Peoples, passed on February 1, 2024.  Send condolences to Eliza at 3340 E. 123 Street, Cleveland, OH 44120.

    Lynn Jeffery’s husband, Richard, passed on January 14, 2024. Send condolences to Lynn at 127 Longridge Lane, Waynesville, NC 28785.

    Helen Stepp passed on February 12, 2024.  Send online condolences to her family at www.waitefuneralhome.com.

    Mary Ann Zizelman passed on February 11, 2024. Send online condolences to her family at www.brunners.com .

    Richel Wiggins’s daughter passed in January 2024.  Send condolences to Richel at 1123 East 145 Street, Cleveland, OH 44110.

    Theresa Ormandy 216-741-6764

    Please call the Sunshine Committee when there is an illness or death in our 279-R family.  However, please DO NOT CALL the committee with other questions, issues or information.               

     Click HERE to see more pictures from the 2023 Retiree Luncheon.

    Below is the latest 279-R updates/information:

    Mar 26, 2024
    March 2024 President’s Report      Greetings, brothers and sisters! March 1 is the beginning of meteorological spring, even though the first day of astronomical spring isn’t until March 19. Either way, spring is close!      Over 100 people attended our February meeting---it was great to see everyone.
    279R March2024 backpage.pdf

    Feb 05, 2024
                                              February 2024 President’s Report       Brrrrrrrr! Welcome to winter in Cleveland.
    279R Feb2024 backpage.pdf

    Apr 24, 2023
    @media only screen and (max-width: 730px){ .pdfview{height:500px !important} At the bottom of this page, you can download the HIPAA Authorization Form to print and fill out.

    Jun 29, 2023
    Download the entire Summer edition newsletter below.
    279R Summer2023 backpage (4).doc
    279R Summer2023 newsletter (2).doc

    Page Last Updated: Mar 26, 2024 (08:16:11)
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