Is Tier 6 ‘good enough?’ And other questions of disproportionate impacts on UFT members. – 12-12-2022 Executive Board Minutes

Introductory Notes: Today’s executive board meeting followed a certain theme of disproportionality.

  • Early in the question period, Ed Calamia pointed out that career changers from the sciences can more easily come in at a higher salary step (up to 8), whereas career changers from the humanities don’t have the same rights, unless they were specifically teachers of the humanities in other districts.
  • Then, Alex Jallot motivated a reso on ending the disproportionate impact of discontinuance/denial on high school teachers, who aren’t allowed to apply to any high school in the DOE if they are discontinued from a single high school. (Note that elementary school teachers are able to apply to elementary schools in any other district if the same thing happens to them). This resolution, which was initially conceived of and written by the UFC-elected High School Executive Board, passed unanimously. In fact, initially it was going to be presented last week, but we held off so a few UFT officers like Janella Hinds could speak in favor as well. (As I was out with COVID last week, I also appreciated the opportunity to speak in favor).
  • Our final resolution of the night, on equalizing Tier 6 with Tier 4, also dealt with disproportionality – specifically the massive gulf in benefits that exist between Tier 6ers and Tier 4ers. There were some lines that we thought would be controversial, such as denying COPE contributions to politicians who actively opposed our pension goals, but it was more surprising when Tom Brown and other Unity-elected members made the argument that Tier 6 was essentially fine, better than what (the mostly non-unionized) rest of the country has, and that improvements are being made anyways. On a ‘misinformation’ note, we were also surprised that Brown claimed Tier 6ers don’t have ‘less net compensation’ than Tier 4ers. While we weren’t allowed to rebut this point during a point of personal privilege, it’s easy to see how he’s incorrect (and probably misinterpreted the reso). For instance, Tier 6ers contribute for their entire careers at higher rates, and Tier 4ers predominately don’t contribute beyond ten years and have lower contribution rates to begin with. Therefore, Tier 6ers literally have more money taken out of their check over the course of their careers. That means they are compensated less. And that’s just one of many differences between Tier 6 and Tier 4 where Tier 6 is mesmerizingly inferior. It’s absolutely worth fighting for Tier 6 to be equalized with Tier 4 and to champion improvements to pension more generally. Nevertheless, no commitments to Tier equalization tonight. A bummer, but no surprise. See below for the full informal minutes.


All minutes approved.

LeRoy Barr: No President’s report – vacancy announced for high school executive board. Nominations at next board. If need be there will be a final executive board meeting on Jan 23rd.

Question Period:

Ed Calamia: Why was the December DA moved?

LeRoy Barr: There were some conflicts. We didn’t want to do it.

Ilona Nanay: Mask mandates question. Should we push for a mandate? Right now we only have suggestion, which doesn’t necessarily work.

LeRoy Barr: Correct on information on ‘recommendations.’ Not a mandate. In this support, we are in support of people wearing masks. Some don’t want to wear them. By the way the numbers are actually down this week. But we support people choosing to wear masks to help rates go down.

Ed Calamia: Career changers who come to the DOE from backgrounds other than teaching – humanities can’t come in at step 8, but other fields (e.g. science) can come in at step 8. Why does one deserve more than other?

Mike Sill: You can get outside credit for time you spend in your title outside of the DOE. So, if you’re an English teacher in another district, you can get salary step credit for that work. In most cases, it’s only for full-time teaching work in a specific license area. Exception for certain things – secretaries can get credit, for instance, for doing secretarial type tasks. But some teachers, such as science and math teachers, can get STEP credit for other reasons. It has to do with how hard it is to attract people in these hard to staff areas, particularly in high school and middle schools. Doesn’t mean we can’t attempt to push for that sort of thing, so we can look at the demands.

Reports from Districts:

Rashad Brown: Friday, Dennis Galt held an LGBTQ event in this district. Local events make sense for this.

Seung Lee: Manhattan Borough events: tenure workshop was well done, honoring recipients. Had the origami workshop. Dec. 7 was a small high school meet and greet. Winnie Thompson allowed town hall to come in so could go to both. Was an ugly sweater party. District 6 had their local toy drive to make sure large numbers of toys could be collected within the district.

Karen Alford: Amazing day on Saturday – 80 students (migrant students, living doubled up, or homeless) who had fun: magician, board games, etc. Heartwarming experience. Keep donating toys and join us for these sorts of events.

Mike Sill: Update on Bronx Plan Hard to Staff Differential. That was part of the 2018 contract – different chancellor and mayor. The last payment was due this Fall. People who are due will get that the 16th. You won’t see it in Payroll Portal, because it’s a supplemental payment. You won’t see that until AFTER you get the payment. Banks might also post late, so only freak out if you don’t see it during the break. Then give a call.

Shawn Rockowitz: latest SI movie night. Great time.

Janella Hinds: December 3rd held a theatre night. Watched La Race on the UWS. Good turnout of both in-service and retired members. Highly recommend the play. It will be streaming for the next couple of weeks. Second, Starbucks rally. On Friday, we were out with other unions in front of City Hall in solidarity with Starbucks work. 260 Starbucks have been organized, but Starbucks has been disgusting in negotiations. UFT was out there strong. We will continue until they get a contract.

Lamar Hughes: Last Saturday at Queens UFT, we had a welcome to NY (400 attendees and 178 children) event for students who came to NY. Services provided to those families.


Resolution Endorsing Victoria Lee for Election to the NYC Teachers’ Retirement Board

Debra Penny: Stepping down as trustee. Can’t think of a better person to take my place than Victoria Lee.

Tom Brown: Also speaks in favor of Lee, a current executive board member. Has bene honored by many UFT awards. She is smart. Defender of defined benefit pensions. Understands being a fiduciary – earn most money at least risk possible. Impressed with her knowledge and compassion. Thanks also Debra Penny, who has been great on her role.

Dave Kazansky: D. Penny immediately made her board seat her own. She’s done great work on the TRS board. I’ve learned a lot. And Victoria Lee will be a great person to fill that seat. Knows what she’s doing.

Motion passes unanimously.

LeRoy Barr: tight timeline, so this will have to come up at the next DA. Highest decision making.

Resolution on Ending Disproportionate Impact of Discontinuance for High School Probationary Teachers. (Read original text here).

Alex Jallot: Mother of my child was discontinued in her first year, while pregnant. She was able to apply to another school, because she was an elementary school teacher. There are situations where people are discontinued unfairly. Want fair treatment.

Janella Hinds: Rise in support of reso. Alignment of divisions is an important value. So I stand in support.

Mike Sill: Alex pleasure to work with you on this. When a person gets discontinued. Hard to apply  even if you can apply. Stuff stays in your file. Sometimes it’s not the right fit. Sometimes people are discontinued for bad reasons. Those people deserve .

Nick Bacon: speaks in favor. When you get fired from most jobs, you just go to the firm nextdoor and apply. When you teach in long island and get discontinued, you can just drive five minutes over to the next down and apply to the school there. When you get discontinued from an elementary school in NYC, it might be hard, but you can still apply to almost every other elementary school in the city. But, when you are discontinued as a high school teacher in NYC, you effectively lose your career. Either you teach middle school, you get a crazy commute to some far away suburb, or you have to leave New York. We need to fix this. We can make the argument to the DOE. It’s time that we do.

Motion passes unanimously.

Resolution Demanding Tier 6 reforms (read text here)

Nick Bacon: I’m in Tier 6. September 9th 2051, it sounds like some science fiction date, but actually that’s the date I can retire. I’ll be 63. I’ll have 40 years teaching public schools. I have to contribute for my entire career in the DOE (35 years). Most Tier 4 members only had to do so for 10 years of their careers. That effectively means I’ll be earning less in total compensation (more deductions from my check). I can take fewer CAR days with me in the end. One of the big reasons people come to work in schools is because they know they have good benefits to look forward to, and they’ll have a decent retirement date. But, benefits aren’t as good in Tier 6. And there are huge penalties for leaving before the age of 63. It’s a huge deterrent to people who would be teachers. Then there’s 25-55. If I had joined as a tier 4 member just a few years earlier, I could have retired 8 years earlier. I know there’s another resolution that’s coming up at the next DA, but this resolution asks for specifics such as: (1) Improving tier 6 to at least to the level of tier 4; (2) actually creating a 25/55 option for tier 6. Lastly, and (3) committing to block COPE dollars or our endorsement to any politician blocking our reform efforts. Finally, we know that if we don’t act now, that new tiers will be created and most likely they’ll be worse. If we don’t fix tier 6 now, there’s going to be a tier 7, a tier 8, even worse than Tier 6. We want to make sure our students—many of whom will be future teachers–have something to look forward to if they join our career.

Tom Brown: Rises in opposition. A longterm Tier 6 member will have similar compensation to Tier 4. Nick mentioned this, but not all Tier 4 members have a ten year contribution. Finally, not everyone had the opportunity for 25-55 in Tier 4. You don’t want to be Tier 4, you want to have a good pension. Fewer than 20% of US workers have a defined benefit plan. So Tier 6 is a defined benefit plan. It has a death benefit. It has opportunities for disability/accident disability. Friends with 401ks made fun of me all of my life. Now they aren’t laughing, because they don’t have ks at all because of who they chose to invest with. So don’t read this and think ‘these poor Tier 6 members.’ They’re going to have it better than many others in the US. The makers of the resolution – the goal of the UFT is to have a dignified pension above and beyond belief. Very rarely do I meet a poor retired school teacher between pension, TDA, and social security. Many other states don’t even have social security. Randi Weingarten had a lawsuit in 1998 and now we have per session earnings as part of our pension. Military service members also have benefits. We’ve had many improvements. We want Tier 6 to be dignified. To say you’re going to write off legislators because they don’t agree?

Victoria Lee: Agree with Tom. Stand in opposition. Tier 6 affects all members, not just UFT. Never wise to make reforms without working with others. Urge you to vote no on this.

Dave Kazansky: Common misconception – Tier 4 wasn’t always what it is now. Took 15 years for five vesting, 17 for 3 year contribution, and 25 years for 25-55. Tier 6 is up for its 11th birthday, and we’re already making progress. Give us the time to make this work. Do not support this resolution.

Debra Penny: Rise in opposition. We’re working on Tier 6. Took 94 changes to make Tier 4 what it is today. Every change you do requires a fiscal notes. We’ve been getting fiscal notes to make every change to Tier 6. Each fiscal note costs millions if not billions of dollars. Tiers are never created to be better than the one before. They’re made because of trouble making the contributions. But City has never missed a payment. We or they will be on it and continue to make little changes.

Ilona Nanay: Rises in support. Not entirely sure why the two are mutually exclusive. Adds some urgency. The tiers are unfair. It’s unjust. We should eliminate the tiers and this resolution is one step toward doing it. Sometimes it feels like we’re bargaining on behalf of the City – let them do that. It’s also unfair to compare what we have here. We should be a beacon for the labor struggle.

Ed Calamia: Rises in support. Heard a lot from experts saying how much is being done. But that’s not how the members of Tier 6 feel. The urgency of our members who are looking at Tier 6 – it weighs on them and has a huge impact on their lives. While good work has been done, it’s not enough. And the bottom half of this resolution has big impact. We should support this, those of us in the lower tiers, who have this before us.

Bacon: Point of privilege. Notes there are no inaccuracies. Reso being misconstrued by many in opposition. (Not allowed to specify misrepresentations by Unity speakers.)

Shawn Ramos: Opposition. Was formerly in finance. So I work for the pension department after being an English teacher. There are inaccuracies. We have financial notes to worry about. We’re teachers and we’ve all had students who were troublesome. There are some slow learners. Same is true of politicians.

Seung Lee: You have heard from many. We need collaboration.

Question is called.

UFC votes for reso, but it is defeated by Unity.

Meeting Adjourned.


  • Avatar

    Whatever you do – and despite that absolute abomination of a response y’all got – PLEASE do not ease up on pushing them for reforms to Tier VI. I know very few colleagues who feel like they can make it that long, and why in the hell would new teachers join the profession when they could do any other city gig for like half the time?!

    In any case, this has to become a rank and file movement that becomes too big to ignore.

    • baconuft

      Couldn’t agree more, Todd. I’ve been in talks between UFT and NYS politicians before. Once we brought up Tier 6. I think it was Robert Jackson who pointed out that we need to lobby harder – make it our issue. Albany doesn’t feel the heat on pension reform right now, so they aren’t prioritizing it. We need to organize a big response to change that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *