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Spotlight: Retirees Demonstrate “Senior” Activism

Laila Mandour (right) retired earlier this year from the Connecticut Department of Transportation where for two decades she worked as a hearing officer assisting small business owners with regulatory requirements. As a staff attorney, she played a vital role in expanding private sector transportation services in underserved communities.
While an active state employee, Mandour was a member of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union. She became a steward within her first year of membership and over 22-years was elected to a number of additional leadership roles, including a term as president.
Reflecting on her new life in retirement, Mandour expressed concerns shared by many public employees worried about “the uncertainty of the political environment and volatile economy.” At issue for many, she said, is “being prepared for how to make ends meet when pension benefits diminish.”
To that end, Mandour intends to remain actively involved in the labor movement. She has joined our A&R Union’s retiree council and is currently serving on an ad hoc committee to establish a statewide, at-large retiree union within AFT Connecticut.
Click here to learn more about our A&R union retiree council.
“Retirees have a wealth of experience; it’s important to share our knowledge to help strengthen our movement,” Mandour said. “And because many of us aren’t working full-time, we now have the time to devote that our active sisters and brothers don’t have,” she added.
IB ImageCarol Adams (left) retired in 2013 as a registered nurse (RN) from the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich where she worked for 28 years. She finished her career in the facility’s telemetry unit where she cared for patients admitted with critical conditions and in need of constant monitoring.
Following a successful organizing effort, Adams and her RN colleagues at the hospital in 2011 voted “Union YES” to form their own local union in AFT Connecticut. She served as a delegate and on the executive board for the Backus Federation of Nurses during her two remaining years of employment — and has remained involved since.
“I was always inspired by my dad to stand up for what’s right,” said Adams. “He was a ‘union man’ and I assumed his views growing up in a time of real turbulence in our country,” she added.
Since retiring Adams has focused her efforts into electing candidates who share her values by serving as a liaison to AFT Connecticut’s Legislative/Political Action Committee (LPAC). She believes that the current generation can benefit from retirees’ “seniority” in experience in this area.
“Nurses are often apolitical and afraid of getting involved,” Adams said. “But I simply channel my father to help them see why they can’t stay on the sidelines when it comes to elections,” she added.
Click here to watch Adams and several of her former colleagues celebrate their union’s fifth anniversary.
IB ImageMary Moninger-Elia (right) retired in 2002 after a 33-year long career educating students in West Haven Public Schools. She taught home economics in the town’s high school for three decades and during her final six years geography and study skills at Bailey Middle School. Moninger-Elia helped launch an innovative pre-school program at the high school that provided students the opportunity to teach and care for toddlers themselves.
Moninger-Elia’s labor activism began early when during her second year of employment when she and her colleagues went on strike for nearly three weeks to demand a fair contract. 
“While we were out, I remember gaining a great deal of respect for my local union leadership,” said Moninger-Elia. “It taught me the value of solidarity,” she added.
That experience helped prepare her for a long record of union leadership that included serving 24 years as president of our West Haven Federation of Teachers. Moninger-Elia additionally represented her local union for 20 years on AFT Connecticut’s executive committee.
Moninger-Elia has remained active in the movement, serving as an LPAC liaison and organizing with the Connecticut chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA). Both efforts have provided the opportunity to focus her energies on a wide range of retirement security issues.
“If we don’t stay engaged and instead allow what we fought for to be taken away, we’ll never get it back,” said Moninger-Elia. “Retirees must stay involved to protect our quality of life, not just for ourselves, but for future generations,” she added.
Click here to learn more about the ARA and the organization’s fight for retirement security.
Much of the country will be celebrating National Senior Citizens Day on August 21 by recognizing the past contributions of those now in their “golden years.” Retirees like Mandour, Adams and Moninger-Elia demonstrate the kind of “senior activism” that should be honored and encouraged among those who have much yet to offer our labor movement.

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