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Getting a ‘fix’ on fairness

Tier 6 members win the same, higher pensions as their Tier 4 colleagues
New York Teacher
Fix Tier 6

Thanks to vigorous lobbying by members from the UFT, its state affiliate NYSUT and other public employee unions in New York state, state lawmakers approved a change in the final average salary calculation for members of Tier 6 of the pension system that will result in a higher pension benefit upon retirement.

Members in Tier 6 — the tier for any New York state or city employee hired on or after April 1, 2012 — will now be treated the same as members in Tier 4: Their three consecutive highest earning years, instead of five, will be used to calculate their final average salary.

The state Legislature included this reform in the 2024–25 budget, which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed on April 22, three weeks after the April 1 start of the fiscal year.

“This change is an important step in bringing equity and fairness to the 50,000 UFT members who are in Tier 6,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “We have a lot more work to do and will continue fighting to fix Tier 6.”

Fixing Tier 6 was one of the top demands made by the 800 UFT members who traveled to Albany for the union’s annual lobby day on March 11. Thousands more UFT members sent emails to legislators about the need for change during the union’s virtual Lobby Day that week.

While the win is a victory for the union’s Fix Tier 6 campaign, the UFT will continue to push for more changes. The union wants Tier 6 members to be able to retire at age 55 with an unreduced pension after 30 years of service. It also wants to limit the number of years and the percentage of salary that Tier 6 employees must contribute to their pension.

Pension benefits are determined by the state Legislature; they are not a subject of collective bargaining.

“We’re not going to get it all fixed in one year, but we have to keep making significant steps to get us where we need to be,” Mulgrew said.

The victory comes two years after public employee unions successfully lobbied to decrease the Tier 6 vesting period from 10 to five years.

Tier 6 member Kevin Shoikhetbrod, a special education teacher and the chapter leader at PS 97 in Brooklyn, welcomed the change to the final average salary calculation. “It’s a necessary step toward getting Tier 6 members on par with our Tier 4 members,” he said.

Tier 4 member Rina Walter, a veteran 4th-grade teacher at PS 165 in Queens, said she remembered how her pension tier improved incrementally over time thanks to union activism.

“As a Tier 4 member, we had to go through many, many, many steps to get what we got,” she said.

Get involved in the Fix Tier 6 campaign.