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Updated On: May 13, 2009

Pension without Tension

Retiree Credits Union For His Comfortable Retirement Lifestyle

UFCW 8 retiree Starr McConnell credits his Union benefits for the comfortable lifestyle that he and his wife enjoy in retirement.

“My wife, Josephine, and I both collect Union pensions,” McConnell said. “When you factor in Social Security, we’re living as well as we did when we both worked.

“We have the excellent pension we do because we were members of a Union,” McConnell continued. “With so many industries and companies eliminating or freezing their pensions, all of the members of UFCW 8 should understand how fortunate we are to have a pension like the one we currently have.”

McConnell began his career in1961. He was employed by several companies as a Meat Cutter, Meat Manager, Meat Supervisor and Buyer prior to his retirement in 1998.

Starr met Josephine in their hometown of Cortland, N.Y., when both were in their teens and worked at the same supermarket. He was a Meat Cutter and she was a Meat Wrapper.

“Being raised in the heart of the Snow Belt” in upstate New York, it shouldn’t be too hard to understand why we came to California,” McConnell said.

Both McConnells are staunch Union supporters.

“Unions give everyone a better life,” Starr said. “You have better wages, working conditions and job security than you can get in a non-Union job. But I believe the medical benefits are the most important of all.”

Nine years ago, Josephine was diagnosed with lung cancer.

McConnell said that without his Union-negotiated health insurance, the family would not have been able to afford to pay for the care Josephine needed.

Starr McConnell
UFCW 8 Retiree

“Between the chemo, the radiation and the long hospital stays, including a time in the ICU, the bills came to almost a million dollars,” McConnell said. “Because of our medical coverage, we didn’t have to pay one penny.”

He added: “I can say two things without doubt: One, there is no way Jo would have recovered had it not been for the care she received. And two, the only reason we had such good coverage is because we have a Union.”

With Josephine now fully recovered, the McConnells have the time to do “whatever we want to do,” Starr said.

They visit their daughter, Deborah, frequently and Josephine makes an annual trip to visit her family in Upstate New York.

The McConnells also like to travel to Lake Tahoe to play the nickel and quarter video poker machines.

“We do it for the fun of it,” Starr said. “We know we’ll never get rich that way.”

Starr McConnell’s other passion is fishing for salmon in the Sacramento River and for trout in Pyramid Lake and other mountain lakes.

McConnell would like to see more non-Union workers become Union members in the future.

“We need to grow and organize so that we can have more clout at the bargaining table,” he said. “I’d like to see more workers get the great Union benefits my wife and I were fortunate enough to have throughout our careers.”

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