by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica HS; UFT Executive Board, HS Rep
A Variable Supplement Fund (VSF) distributes excess earnings in pension funds back to retired members. Money in our pension funds is invested and if those funds make better returns than expected, the extra money now goes back to the city. The Police and Fire Unions negotiated a VSF years ago. In addition to their regular pension, retired police officers and firefighters receive an annual supplemental check from excess pension fund earnings.
This year a retired police officer will get approximately $11,000 from the VSF. Meanwhile, retired teachers have to wait five years after they retire to collect the much touted Cost of Living Adjustment which was passed by the State Legislature at the beginning of the decade. The COLA will pay retirees only $180 to a maximum of $540 annually, a small fraction of what the retired police officers will receive from their VSF. As prices continue to rise, the COLA is a meager pension supplementation.
Several years back, UFT President Randi Weingarten said that if another Union wins a VSF from the State Legislature, then we would push for one also. Soon after, the Corrections Union had a VSF passed by the State Legislature and signed by Governor George Pataki. The UFT now has a VSF bill we are asking the Legislature to support. However, the bill is written in such a way that if it were to become law, only people who retire after the legislation is passed would receive the supplemental checks each year. Currently retired UFT members would receive nothing and be stuck with the "Diet COLA."
Opposition members at the Executive Board have continually pointed out the flaw in our VSF bill and we have been attempting to persuade the UFT to rewrite and reintroduce the bill so that all retirees, current and future, would get a supplemental check through a Variable Supplement Fund. We tried this again on January 30, 2006 but Unity won't listen to us and continues to push a flawed bill that would not help current retirees.
This leads to the question: Why are retired teachers the most loyal Unity Caucus constituency? In the last ten years Unity has pushed through a flawed COLA that results in pension checks lagging way behind the rate of inflation and now the UFT is supporting a VSF that would not benefit current retirees. Meanwhile, costs for health care continue to explode out of control. Isn't it time for retired teachers to start thinking about new leadership. They have nothing to lose. Pension checks are protected by the State Constitution so they are not jeopardized. The Independent Community of Educators fully supports retired UFT members.
- The UFT should not support with COPE money politicians who are not protecting the interests of our members, active and retired.
- The UFT needs to properly mobilize our retired and active members to work for a VSF for retirees, both current and future.
- The UFT must draw a line in the sand and say no more erosion in health care benefits.