Your step-by-step guide to building an AFT Retiree Chapter
From coffee table discussion to AFT charter


A top priority of the Council of Retired Members is assisting AFT local unions in organizing new retiree chapters to bring the benefits of belonging to more retired members.

This booklet When You Retire is part of our organizing effort and explains, step-by-step, how you can help build a retiree chapter and be part of our lasting labor solidarity during your post-retirement years.

The six key steps required to start an AFT retiree chapter are spelled out in the booklet and posted on this web page. Additionally, from this web page you can download the text documents referenced in the booklet including a sample letter to the local union, AFT-suggested bylaws for local union constitutions, and bylaws for retiree chapter constitutions. You will also find the link to apply for an AFT charter.

STEP 1 – Establish retiree facilitators

Creating a new retiree chapter best begins when 3-5 retiree activists serve as interim facilitators who can work together to accomplish three essential initial tasks:

  • Request support from parent local
  • Set up chapter bylaws
  • Prepare a strategy to contact retirees

STEP 2 – Request support from parent local

You will need to prepare a proposal that requests support from your parent local union for the creation of a retiree chapter, including a change in local bylaws. Below you will find a sample letter to be used as a model for requesting your local’s support and suggested bylaw language prepared by AFT that provides for a retiree chapter in the local union constitution.

The local number of the new retiree chapter is most often that used by the parent local followed by an R. For example, the local number for the retiree chapter of the ABC Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2317, is AFT Local 2317-R.


Dear (name of local president):

Although we have joined the ranks of retired members, our interest in union activism has not gone away. Therefore, we would like to express proudly our interest in continuing to support the work of the (name of local) through the formation of a retiree chapter.

In an effort to organize retiree activism and to provide support to our in-service sisters and brothers, we are requesting a letter of support from the (name of local) executive board for the establishment of a retiree chapter that can serve as a readily available resource of assistance for work of the (name of local) . At the same time, we want to provide for a chapter’s own retired members focused attention on professionals working in education and the issues that most concern them.

We would welcome an opportunity to meet with the (name of local) executive board as soon as possible to discuss the inclusion in your bylaws of formal support for such a retiree chapter with language used by other AFT locals around the country.

We also would welcome having a discussion with you about the specific ways you would like the (name of local) and its newly formed retiree chapter to work cooperatively together in the future.

We are looking forward to hearing from you soon.

In solidarity,
(Names of interim retiree chapter facilitators)



Special Members


  1. Retired membership shall be open to all retired personnel of (name of employer) who have held active membership in the (name of local) for at least one year prior to retirement.

  2. A retiree chapter shall be established within the (name of local) for the purposes of:

    1. maintaining the ties of professional unity between working members and retirees;

    2. representing and promoting the interests of retired members in the (parent body), its affiliates, the labor movement and the community; and

    3. providing a forum for exchanging information of interest and benefit to retired members and for the expression of their views.

  3. All members of the retiree chapter shall hold simultaneous membership in the state and national affiliate as a retiree.

  4. The retiree chapter shall establish bylaws that delineate membership, officers, committees and their responsibilities.

  5. The retiree chapter president or a designee shall serve as a member of the executive board (or executive representative body) of the (name of local) and may have voting privileges on all matters except contractual considerations and issues of working conditions.

Having a retiree chapter benefits the local union!

  • It keeps talented and experienced members active in local union activities.
  • There are more bodies to do the work: Organizing, contract campaigns, support in board elections, phone banks, mailings.
  • Retirees help make the local union’s political program more robust.
  • Retirees have a wealth of pedagogical knowledge and can help younger members with professional issues.
  • Retirees know the history of the local union and help maintain union solidarity.
  • Retirees can help maintain the union’s relationships with community organizations.

STEP 3 – Develop retiree chapter bylaws

Develop bylaws for your new retiree chapter adjusted to speak directly to your members’ specific goals. Sample bylaws prepared by AFT can guide you and your local union in the development of retiree chapter bylaws.

STEP 4 – Make a plan to contact retirees

After receiving your local union’s agreement of support, contact prospective and recent retirees by email or U.S. mail and invite them to the initial general membership meeting that will explore with them the development of a new retiree chapter.

This communication should contain a RSVP request. It can be followed up with a phone call to check in with those contacted who did not respond as a way of verifying current email and mailing addresses, as well as meeting attendance.

STEP 5 – Hold general membership meeting

At the initial meeting, you can explore with retirees in attendance the development of a new retiree chapter. You will also adopt the newly formed chapter bylaws and elect chapter officers — at minimum a president, vice president, and secretary-treasurer.

STEP 6 – File charter application with AFT

After the initial meeting of the new chapter, you may submit a charter application to the AFT Membership Department. This will be done online. You will need to create a log-in on the AFT portal.

There is a $5 processing fee to charter a new retiree chapter. The check (payable to the AFT) must be sent separately to the address specified on the AFT site.

If you need help with this step, please contact the Council of Retired Members.