A Fighting Tradition: District 8 SOAR Attend 13th Annual Convention of the West Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans.

Since the state was admitted to the Union in 1863, West Virginians have always embraced the idea that hard work and liberty go hand in hand.

In fact, the Great Seal of West Virginia displays the image of a boulder with a farmer and a miner on each side. In the foreground lie two rifles and a liberty cap which signifies the state’s history of fighting for liberty. Inscribed below the image is West Virginia’s motto, “Montani Semper Liberi,” which is Latin for “Mountaineers are Always Free.”

These themes of hard work and liberty were also central to the 13th Annual Convention of the West Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans (WV ARA), which was held on November 16 and 17, 2017. This year’s convention was the WV ARA’s largest to date, thanks to the significant contributions of the state chapter’s 12-member Executive Board on which six SOAR members serve elected offices.

The SOAR members currently serving on the WV ARA’s Executive Board include: SOAR Chapter 23-4 Recording Secretary, Robert Adkins; SOAR Chapter 23-16 Recording Secretary, Betty Totten; SOAR Chapter 23-16 President, Les Shockey; SOAR Chapter 23-16 Member, Larry LaCorte; SOAR Chapter 23-4 President, Rick Lewis and SOAR Chapter 23-16 Member, Floyd Sayre.

With the support of several other unions that are heavily involved in coordinating and planning – including AFSCME, CWA, AFT and the IBEW – this convention focused on training members and allies in ways to use social media and technology to better communicate the work of the West Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans.

Robert Adkins explains that improved communications online by members and allies will help the ARA be more affective in their efforts to repeal the state’s so-called “Right to Work” law, protect workers’ right to prevailing wage and improve workers’ rights overall.

Adkins, District 8 SOAR Executive Board member and outgoing WV ARA Treasurer, explained to us several ways that the WV ARA is working to establish itself as one of the most progressive and active chapters in the nation.

Adkins describes how last year the chapter went through the very complicated process of changing the organization’s tax status – a move that will “give our members greater influence over what type of laws are passed at the state and federal levels.” Specifically, this change will enable the WV ARA to lobby elected officials, make political endorsements and even give financial backing to candidates who have pledged support to the values and mission of the ARA.

The chapter has also successfully lobbied the national AFL-CIO in an effort to have a voice at the Federation’s annual constitutional convention, to which the WV ARA is now able to send two credentialed delegates. To Adkins’ knowledge, theirs is the only state chapter of the ARA that sends credentialed delegates to the AFL-CIO’s constitutional convention.

Though Adkins is not continuing on as the WV ARA Treasurer, he made it clear that he plans on maintaining involvement in the chapter; given the incredible amount of work being done by its members and board to advance the right of retirees. 

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