The Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) is a labor-union sponsored advocacy group claiming to represent the interests of senior citizens. ARA leadership identifies the corporation as “progressive” and opposes policies that reform programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
ARA has state alliances in 38 states that focus on advancing left-progressive policy at the local and state levels while mobilizing retirees to be active in informing and activating their communities. ARA’s left-of-center advocacy also reaches beyond issues specific to retirees and into socially sensitive matters such as abortion. In 2016, ARA executive director Richard Fiesta said he was “horrified” by President Donald Trump’s decision to appointment an openly pro-life medical doctor, then-U.S. Representative Tom Price (R-GA), as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Fiesta said the appointment “would have a devastating impact on women’s health.” 1 2
ARA was founded in 2001 as a continuation project of the former National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC). 3 Members of the NCSC were grandfathered into ARA and ARA continues to push the same economic and social agendas as NCSC did.
Alliance for Retired Americans’ predecessor, the National Council of Senior Citizens, was involved in passing Medicare in 1965 after a season of lobbying and public demonstrations. In an August 1964 protest, busloads of NCSC members marched to the Democratic National Convention in New Jersey demanding the implementation of Medicare into law. 4 5 In Florida, AFA supported a piece of state legislation that would prevent cuts to Medicare while combating actions of Medicare fraud. 6
In 2019, ARA appeared before the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of efforts to increase Social Security benefits.. 7
In 2016, ARA executive director Richard Fiesta prompted a response from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) office after Fiesta claimed Rubio had voted against the “best interests for seniors in Florida” regarding Social Security. Rubio’s office replied with an outlined description of Rubio’s support for the program. 8
Robert Roach, Jr. is the current president of Alliance for Retired Americans. Prior to his appointment, Roach was the general secretary‐treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) labor union from 2012 through 2015. Roach was also a member of multiple executive committees of the AFL-CIO union federation. 9
Liz Shuler is the vice president for ARA. Elizabeth H. Shuler is an American union official holding the position of international secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO since 2009. She is the first woman to hold the position of Secretary-Treasurer. 10
Richard Fiesta has held the position of executive director since 2013. Prior to his appointment, Fiesta was the director of government and political affairs at ARA since 2001. He is also a vice-chair on the Democratic National Committee seniors’ council. Fiesta’s experience on Capitol Hill includes work as counsel to the House Subcommittee on Labor Standards, legislative counsel to Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA), and communications director for Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). He is a graduate of Georgetown University. 11
Alliance for Retired Americans receives substantial funding from major labor unions. On unions’ 2019 Department of Labor filings, the AFL-CIO, American Postal Workers Union, Postal Mail Handlers LIUNA, Amalgamated Transit Union, and the Communications Workers of America provided funds to the national Alliance; other labor unions including the SEIU, Unite Here, and the Laborers International Union (LIUNA) provided funding to state affiliates. 12 In past years, other unions have made contributions to the Alliance.
In 2016, ARA endorsed Democratic nominee and former Obama administration Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president. Roach commented that her support for Social Security and the reduction of prescription drug prices was in line with ARA’s mission, leading to the endorsement. 13 During the 2016 election, ARA targeted social media ads specifically in Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Missouri, all of which were Senate battleground states. 14 15 As of June of 2019, ARA has spent a total of $508,661 on political campaigns, of which $290,377 was spent in support of Democrats and $218,271 was spent to oppose Republicans. 16
- Davis, Julie Hirschfeld, Binyamin Appelbaum, and Maggie Haberman. “Trump Taps Hollywood’s Mnuchin for Treasury and Dines With Romney.” The New York Times. The New York Times, November 29, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/us/politics/steven-terner-mnuchin-trump-treasury-secretary.html.
- “State Alliances.” Retired Americans. Accessed April 23, 2020. https://retiredamericans.org/state-alliances/.
- “Creating the Next Generation of Retired Worker Organizations: AFL-CIO.” The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, May 4, 2000. https://aflcio.org/about/leadership/statements/creating-next-generation-retired-worker-organizations.
- Shure, Natalie. “How Medicare Was Won.” The Nation, August 6, 2018. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/how-medicare-was-won/.
- “Alliance for Retired Americans.” Ballotpedia. Accessed April 23, 2020. https://ballotpedia.org/Alliance_for_Retired_Americans.
- Sunshine State News. “Lois Frankel, Bill Keating Team Up Again to Take on Medicare Fraud.” Sunshine State News, May 11, 2018. http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/lois-frankel-bill-keating-team-again-take-medicare-fraud.
- “‘IMPROVING RETIREMENT SECURITY FOR AMERICA’S WORKERS.’” waysandmeans.house.gov, February 6, 2019. https://waysandmeans.house.gov/sites/democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/files/documents/Alliance for Retired Americans Statement for the Record.pdf.
- Ceballos, John. “Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Aims at Rubio.” The Ledger, September 20, 2016. https://www.theledger.com/news/20160919/florida-alliance-for-retired-americans-aims-at-rubio.
- “Preventing the Next Pension Collapse: Lessons from the United Airlines Case.’ .” Senate Finance Committee, June 7, 2005. https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/rrtest060705.pdf.
- “Liz Shuler.” The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://aflcio.org/aboutleadership/liz-shuler.
- “Seniors Council.” Democratic National Committee. Accessed April 21, 2020. https://democrats.org/seniors-council/.
- Data compiled from Department of Labor Office of Labor-Management Standards Payer-Payee search tool from annual report forms filed with OLMS by labor unions. Queries conducted April 29, 2020.
- “Ballotpedia’s Daily Presidential News Briefing – July 1, 2016.” Ballotpedia, July 1, 2016. https://ballotpedia.org/Ballotpedia’s_Daily_Presidential_News_Briefing_-_July_1,_2016.
- “Alliance for Retired Americans.” Ballotpedia, ballotpedia.org/Alliance_for_Retired_Americans.
- Gruenberg, Mark. “Alliance for Retired Americans Launches pro-Social Security Political Ads.” People’s World, October 19, 2016. https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/alliance-for-retired-americans-launches-pro-social-security-political-ads/.
- “Alliance for Retired Americans Independent Expenditures.” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/indexpend.php?cmte=C90017476&cycle=2018&txt=.