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Retirement security key to union membership

New York Teacher

In February, the UFT will celebrate its anniversary. It will be 58 years since New York City public school educators united to fight for their joint welfare and to support the children they teach.

Retirement security is one area in which city educators have benefited the most from belonging to a strong union. UFT leaders — Charlie Cogan, Al Shanker, Sandy Feldman, Randi Weingarten and now Michael Mulgrew — have insisted that a dignified retirement means more than merely making ends meet.

The New York City Teachers’ Retirement System was founded in 1917. The benefits provided then were paltry. Teachers had to work until age 65 and had to have 35 years of service before qualifying for a full pension. That pension was costly to participants, costing between 10 and 20 percent of a teacher’s salary over the teacher’s entire career. Tax-deferred savings plans back then were nonexistent. If an in-service member passed away, beneficiaries received little in the way of benefits.

Social Security was founded in 1935, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the UFT’s predecessor organization successfully negotiated Social Security coverage for all teachers, finally adding a layer of retirement security above the pension. In the early 1960s, the UFT achieved better in-service death-benefit protection and dramatically reduced the amount of member contributions to their pensions.

In February 1970, the Tax-Deferred Annuity program was unveiled. It was immediately popular. As the years passed, TRS made such great improvements to the TDA program that members asked to keep their money invested in the TDA even after they retired. So that was made available as an option. Today, more than 45,000 retired members keep their money in their TDA accounts and about 75 percent of in-service members have a TDA account.

The UFT further ensured its members’ retirement security when it attained health insurance and supplemental Welfare Fund benefits for retirees.

Unions in the crosshairs

Meanwhile, anti-union reactionaries want to destroy the four pillars of your retirement security: a defined-benefit pension, Social Security, the Tax-Deferred Annuity and premium-free health insurance. Not only do they want to take away your pension and TDA, they want to privatize Social Security and make health insurance less accessible and more expensive!

A new report from the National Institute on Retirement Security, “Win-Win: Pensions Efficiently Serve Americans, American Schools and Teachers,” finds that defined-benefit teacher pension plans work for both schools and teachers and that there are important reasons to continue offering these retirement plans.

The report finds teacher pension plans:

The public overwhelmingly supports teacher pension plans, the report says.

“Bolstering retirement savings for working Americans would be an opportunity for Congress and the White House to find bipartisan solutions — but politicians are making it more difficult for working Americans to put money in their retirement piggybanks,” says Diane Oakley, the executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security.

Read the report on the National Insititute on Retirement Security’s website.

Awaiting a decision

The UFT will always fight to maintain your retirement benefits, but that will become more difficult if the Supreme Court rules against unions in Janus v. AFSCME. The union will need every member’s support.

The Supreme Court has set a Feb. 26 hearing date for oral arguments. The lawsuit, funded by anti-worker organizations, seeks to starve public-sector unions of funding they need for member services by prohibiting unions from collecting agency or fair-share fees from nonmembers.

We dodged this bullet in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association after Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. But with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, we anticipate a ruling that could do serious harm to public employees if members don’t stick together.

Variable Annuity
2017 / 2018 Variable A Variable B Variable C Variable D Variable E
2017 Diversified Equity Bond International Equity Inflation Protection Socially Responsive Equity
Nov. 93.2888 16.604 11.255 10.287 16.714
Dec. 95.100 16.505 11.302 10.274 17.125
Jan. 95.898 16.459 11.493 10.359 17.322
For more pension information, call you UFT borough office or the Teachers' Retirement System at 1-888-8NYC-TRS (1-888-869-2877); or visit the UFT pension or TRS.
Related Topics: Secure Your Future
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