STRS Flashback -5 Yrs Ago; An unanswered letter sent to OEA's Gary Allen on 8-9-04...some things don't change (except the HC premiums), do they?
Dear Mr. Allen,
Your most recent edition of "Ohio Schools" contains an article critical of S.B. 133 that doesn't put into proper perspective how your organization (OEA) failed over 100,000 retiree members of Ohio STRS.
The current OEA dominated(not for long) and affiliated STRS board lacked the foresight to ensure that current and future retirees do and will have quality and affordable health care. I realize that health care benefits are not guaranteed by any state retirement system, but how can you justify the PERS premium of $80 per month for a retiree and spouse vs. the STRS premium of $562 per month for employees who also spent 30 years in public service? The influential and progressive(?) thinking OEA didn't put pressure on our legislature to increase the current 1% contribution rate by STRS into health care funding. The next lowest state retirement system health care contribution rate is more than double this 1%. OEA couldn't muster up the courage to press for this increase years ago when it was known that 1% was not enough, didn't want to ruffle feathers!
The Ohio Schools article seems to villify the passage of S.B. 133 as a bad omen for teachers. Both of us know that the passage of S.B. 133 eliminates your organization's future ability to maintain control over a current blind and "out of tune with reality" STRS board that has floundered with your organization's blessings and endorsements. This same board also enjoyed misspending millions of dollars on a 90 plus million dollar building, globetrotting, Kings Island tickets, alcohol, and the list goes on and on without consideration of the Ohio Revised Code and its requirement of fiduciary responsibilities to ONLY its retirees.
I know that your OEA agenda demands an OEA majority on the STRS board - sorry, Gary, it's not in the cards now. You can use your OEA magazine to strike fear into the lives of active teachers' minds as to how your organization's teachers have been ill served by the passage of S.B. 133. You fail, however, to inform your membership of the above mentioned spending of millions of dollars by this OEA dominated board who for years never saw a board motion that they didn't like. It WAS an age of rubber-stamping at its golden best.
Gary, no longer are you and your organization able to spoon-feed active teachers on how to think and act. With the advent of the electronic media, Dr. Dennis Leone (STRS whistle blower), John Lazares (newest "reform" STRS board electee), the Canton Repository, and the Plain Dealer- your organization's iron grip on active teachers' minds is finally being realized for what it currently is- a gradually loosening grip.
If it hadn't been for the lack of insight by your organization, S.B. 133 and its competing house bill wouldn't have been necessary. The OEA's generous "pac" donations to politicians on both sides of the aisle didn't bail you out this time. These politicians respect for ethics and/or fear of not being reelected took a priority over your campaign contributions. STRS retirees have found that, "with friends like the OEA, who needs enemies?"
Both the STRS and your organization need to reexamine your concerns for the retired teachers of Ohio. STRS has an O.R.C. mandate- your organization should have a mandate of care and concern for your former dues paying members.
For the OEA, forking out over $150,000 for your salary, $50,000 to $60,000 for secretarial salaries, and salaries of over $100,000 for labor relation consultants- you and your organization could and should have taken serious measures to "clean-up" the STRS organization if for no other reason than to show your dues paying members that they were getting the best bang for their bucks. The OEA's lack of action has contributed to some of my fellow retirees having to make the decision of whether it will be food or medicine.
With winter coming on, the reality of home heating bills will compound this situation. OEA's lack of care, leadership, and compassion will now be realized by its former dues paying members. Fool the active teachers once, shame on you; fool them twice, shame on them. Throughout modern history, many companies and most trade unions have looked out for the health and welfare of their employees AND retirees. The OEA has sorely abandoned the latter. You now have reached a point in time to reform your organization's concern for its retirees, will you heed the call?
You have questioned Dennis Leone's "motives" upon reading his 13 page report about the mismanagement and spending fiasco at STRS. Once Dr. Leone's facts were presented, they were not disputed-not even by you. You never apologized to Dr. Leone. If you wish to question my motives for writing this letter to you - please do. In fact, I'll even save you the time and trouble by supplying you with my motives. I wish to see the rape of retirees by the OEA controlled STRS board stop immediately. I wish to see the STRS return to the Cadillac of retirement systems that it once was. I wish to see STRS retirees live out their lives without being one major illness away from becoming bankrupt thanks to the miserable and expensive health insurance coverage that STRS offers. I don't expect an apology either- I expect action and not the cancellation of two health care advocates meetings in a row. The next time you or the OEA complains about S.B. 133, you should now understand why this bill became law. Every day more and more current and retired educators are becoming cognizant of why this baby was born.
30 year teacher retiree -a PROUD CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Teachers)