Sunday, January 26, 2020
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The Russo Report: The Copper Penny

As the New Year begins, I thank to all of you for what you have done for your profession. We have come a long way, together; we still have a way to go.  
PSEA retirees remind me of the “copper Lincoln wheat penny.” This cent was struck for the first time in 1909 and ended in 1958. If you are 62 or older, you were born during its reign. As an amateur numismatist for almost seventy years, I have spent many hours attempting to reach my goal -- having the complete set. No easy task. Each penny is the same but so different. Each is unique in its own way. Some are more valuable than others, but all have value. Some are bright and shiny, some are tarnished, some have nicks, some show more readily the ravages of time; but, each is a treasure to behold. 
Does that sound familiar?     

I’m reflecting on you -- my union sisters and brothers -- and our legacy. We have accomplished a lot over the last fifty plus years. Even though we may be worn, nicked, scarred and reflect the consequences of age, we are ever present. I want you to know that you are just as valuable today as you have always been. 
I have said in the past: “The present political climate in both our state and country re-enforces why we must all belong to PSEA- and NEA-Retired to make our collective voices heard.”

There have been many attempts to do away with the penny. It’s not important anymore in today’s economy; it’s irrelevant; its upkeep costs more than its value . . . 
Have you heard anyone say this about retirees and their benefits?  

Many of us re-join PSEA-Retired yearly. Some ask: “Why do I need to join?”  We sometimes forget the reasons we were members in the first place. If this happens to you, just remember where we all came from and how we got where we are today.  . . and think of that penny. 

When we joined our union, we paid our dues in not only money but also time and commitment. We responded to the call for collective action, and we picked our battles. Negotiations, strikes, contracts, picketing, marches, elections, grievances, arbitrations, meetings, conventions and much more were part of our union’s repertoire. Collective action was the key to our success. Nothing has changed. Unless we stay united, much of what we have earned as public school retirees can be rolled back or denied.                                                                                                   
The next time you see a discarded penny, think of our commitment to our vocation and remember that, like that penny, you will always have value.                                                                 
I hope to see you at one of our Region socials. We can swap stories about our pennies and share photos of our grandchildren.

Phil Russo is a member of the PSEA Retired Board of Directors and the PSEA-Retired representative on the 
PSEA Resolutions Committee.


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