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
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
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
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.
SAMPLE LETTER TO LOCAL UNION
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
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.
(Names of interim retiree chapter facilitators)
SUGGESTED LANGUAGE FOR LOCAL UNION BYLAWS
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
A retiree chapter shall be established within the (name
of local) for the purposes of:
maintaining the ties of professional unity between
working members and retirees;
representing and promoting the interests of retired
members in the (parent body), its affiliates,
the labor movement and the community; and
providing a forum for exchanging information of interest
and benefit to retired members and for the expression of
All members of the retiree chapter shall hold simultaneous
membership in the state and national affiliate as a retiree.
The retiree chapter shall establish bylaws that delineate
membership, officers, committees and their responsibilities.
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
- It keeps talented and experienced members active in local
- 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
- 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
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
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
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.