April 2012 Issue
March 19, 2012

NYSUT presses forward after Tier 6 vote

Author: Betsy Sandberg
Source: NYSUT United

Expressing deep disappointment in the governor and those legislators who voted to slash pension benefits for future workers, NYSUT leaders said the union will continue to press for key legislative issues, including closing corporate loopholes and enacting legislation to recoup from Wall Street's abuses.

On the issue of Tier 6, lawmakers had a clear opportunity to help local governments and school districts deal with pension costs while retaining benefits, noted NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi.

"It is very simple: Those who chose this path are requiring the 99 percent to pay for the sins of the 1 percent," Iannuzzi said. "This was an opportunity for every legislator to stand with labor and not pander to those who are funding the non-stop attacks on labor. Sadly, not all understood that responsibility."

NYSUT activists from across the state will continue to raise our collective voice in grassroots lobbying for resources and other key issues through the remainder of this legislative session.

Lobbying by labor, led by the state AFL-CIO, succeeded in mitigating the worst elements of the original Tier 6 proposal. Most notable: Lawmakers dropped the option of the 401(k) proposal for all but high-earner management employees.

"This would have undermined retirement security for all workers," said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT's executive vice president. The governor's proposal would have forced future workers, upon hiring, to choose between a severely diminished defined benefit pension and a riskier 401(k)-style plan. "Lawmakers recognized that this was, after all, no choice and would have a drastic impact on the ability of public service workers to retire with dignity."

Lobbying also succeeded at keeping the years required to vest at 10 years and lessening the impact on those who make up to $55,000.

NYSUT activists joined with the state AFL-CIO in a major push to protect retirement security. More than 75,000 calls were made through the AFL-CIO action line and 27,000 faxes sent through the Member Action Center.

The AFL-CIO continues to make a strong case that the way to ensure stability in funding workers pensions is to require Wall Street to be accountable for the damage it caused. The AFL-CIO and its member unions have called for legislation that would allow the state attorney general to recoup $100 billion in pension losses caused by greed and lax financial oversight.

Pallotta said the clear linkage between the Tier 6 vote and a plan to redraw legislative district lines was a disappointing reminder of the "old Albany" many had vowed to clean up.

"Make no mistake, we know this was tied to redistricting, and we're going to ask: Who chose their own incumbency security over the next generation's retirement security?" Pallotta said.

This setback is more reason to redouble our efforts, Pallotta said. "We're coming into the home stretch in our year-long campaign to turn around the devastating cuts of the last three years. Our thanks go out to each and every one of you who have taken the time to advocate for the proper funding of public education and health care."

Pallotta noted that the union's Committee of 100 was scheduled to meet with lawmakers March 20. "Members will be talking directly to legislators to share their deep disappointment over Tier 6."