Posts Tagged 'Pension'

Blue Senate

It is urgent that we take advantage of this moment of financial improvement in New York State and the change in the political landscape in Albany. We should not wait for the next contract period in to see changes that are crying out for improvement.

Teacher Evaluation – The current teacher evaluation system was dictated by state law – a law that we should repeal and replace. Student test scores should be entirely removed from the teacher rating process.

Pension Reform – It’s an opportune time to press our elected friends that we’ve helped put in office to: CALL FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN THE PENSION TIERS. We’ve done it before. We can’t have this multi-tiered system which makes for tremendous inequity between members and costs such financial disparity.

Single Payer Health Care – The United Federation of Teachers is on record supporting a single payer system, but our leadership and Michael Mulgrew have claimed that this just means “Federal Single Payer” and they are opposing single payer in Albany. New Action supports single payer at the federal level AND at the state level.

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30 Years Ago Today: Our Pension Funds and The Fight for Divestment

From the Frontlines #2
By Michael Shulman

Thursday, January 9, 1986 was the first day I took office as the elected Vice President for Academic High Schools. Although I was elected in the spring of 1985, the Unity led UFT under the leadership of Albert Shanker refused to allow me to take my rightful place. The election was contested, by the incumbent, and a Committee to Investigate the Election Challenge was formed.

After 6 months (and $15,000 dollars in legal fees) I and the New Action Coalition that supported me agreed to go to a second election that I won decisively.

Back to January 1986. On Monday, January 27th two interesting issues came up at my first Ad Com meeting (the officers of the union). Seated to Sandra Feldman’s immediate left, I stated that I wanted to begin with a statement of principle. I refused to accept the double pension that union officers, district reps and other staff received. At first there was stunned silence. An officer and leading member of Unity (who I won’t name since she passed away many years ago) asked me, “Mike, what’s wrong with union leaders being in the vanguard?” I responded, “Let’s have that discussion after we win additional pension monies for our members who work beyond their work day doing per session.” It’s ironic that many years later the UFT did win the additional pension benefit. Of course, by then I was no longer in office and missed having that discussion.

The second topic occurred between Sandra Feldman and myself that day. Back in 1984, the Teacher Action Caucus, which I was a member of, initiated a postcard campaign to call on our three Teacher Members of the Retirement Board to push for divestment of our pension funds from companies doing business with the apartheid regime of South Africa (reported in the November 2015 leaflet put out by New Action/UFT). UFT President Feldman looked at me and asked, “Michael, what are these postcards about?” As incredulous as the question was I knew she knew what it was about.”

But my response was serious and I put forward what the members were asking for.

That postcard campaign was instructive. Of course the anti-apartheid fight began long before 1984 and much of the trade union movement was already on board in this fight to divest. But that initiative by a small group of UFT’ers none-the-less played a big role in moving our union. A short time after this meeting, the UFT members of the Teachers Retirement system did, in fact, put forth the case for divestment of our pension funds. Although it took two years to come to pass our UFT made its contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle. The rest is history.

Resolution on Agreement Securing Pension Benefits and Ending Two Work Days Before Labor Day

On Monday, June 22, 2009 the UFT’s Executive Board overwhelmingly approved a resolution that created a new pension tier (of poorer quality) for future UFT hirees. It also, effective immediately, ended the requirement to report to work on the two days before Labor Day.

New Action/UFT enthusiastically and unanimously supports the return of the first day of work to the day after Labor Day.

In return for this change, the UFT agreed to modifications to the pension plan of future UFT members. New Action has always opposed the creation of any pension tier that was in any way inferior to what already existed.

This new pension tier for future UFT members is inferior. It stipulates eligibility at age of 55 with 27 years of service. In addition there is a member contribution of 4.85 % for 27 years (reduced to 1.85% after 27 years).

New Action opposition was not unanimous. The reality of the present economic crisis threatened to put future UFT members into an even more inferior tier- Tier III, which requires an age of 62 years and reduces your pension by your Social Security benefit (probably $1500-$2000/month). Governor Patterson has already put this modification in place for two unions. Two other unions agreed to modifications that were not as severe as Tier III. So did the UFT. The present chaos in Albany also has the potential to create even more mayhem. So for some New Action Executive Board members, the agreement was the lesser of two evils.

For New Action the main issue in this agreement is the pension deterioration for new UFT members. We are unanimous in making a commitment to eliminate this tier and return all members to the present pension plan.