March 06, 2024

Committee of 100 Activists Rally to Fix Tier 6!

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Committee of 100 Activists Rally to Fix Tier 6!
Caption: NYSUT President Melinda Person stood surrounded by a sea of supporters at the NYS Capitol, to lead the fight for pension improvements.

Against the majestic backdrop of the Million Dollar Staircase, more than 500 Committee of 100 activists made their voices heard at a spirited noontime Fix Tier Six rally at the New York state Capitol. “Since our Tier 6 members must contribute more into a system that is going to give them less in retirement, it strikes this inherent chord of unfairness,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person who stood surrounded by a sea of supporters, many bearing signs and placards from sister unions, such as the Public Employees Federation and CSEA. “It brings our members together to fight and that’s what you see here today!”

As the stairwell reverberated with chants of “we won’t quit ‘til we Fix Tier 6!” and other pro-change slogans, several lawmakers supported rally activists in calling for change. “We are in a moment of time, we have the ability to fix the mistake of 12 years ago,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson who was joined by State Senators Robert Jackson, John Mannion, Lea Webb, Jessica Ramos and others. “In the public and private sector everyone is hurting to get more workers and we can’t attract them into the public sector because we don’t have a fair retirement system.”

“It used to be that when you retired you knew you would have dignity, respect and financial independence,” said Mario Cilento, New York State AFL-CIO president, who pledged his union’s support for the movement. “New York state broke that promise with Tier 6 and as a result we have public-sector employees leaving their jobs after a year or two.”

Bethany Hamilton, Tri-Valley Teachers Association, explained the crux of the issue for Tier 6 educators like her. “As a member of Tier 6 I can’t look forward to a dignified retirement,” said Hamilton noting that as the child of two public servants, she’s seen what the payoff for public service should be. “Instead, we’re anticipating a retirement where we may have to work in retirement or count on our children to take care of us. We won’t get what earlier tiers were afforded, which was always the beauty of being a public servant.”

Person is determined to lead the fight for pension improvements for members like Hamilton. “We want to eventually create parity for Tier 6 members — because 30 years should be a career,” she said noting that changing the Final Average Salary calculation from five to three years is a goal for this legislative session. “We’re hopeful that the Legislature and the governor can come together and agree on something that will give our members hope for the future.”