Former teachers’ union leaders and staff turned big MEA paychecks into giant public pensions – Michigan Capitol Confidential
Former MEA presidents enjoy six-figure pensions guaranteed by the state constitution
Julius Maddox was a junior high school teacher in the Pontiac Public School District in the 1980s. Today, Maddox receives an annual pension from the Michigan school of $144,276.
The outsized state pension Maddox receives is due to a union regime he enjoyed decades ago. And he’s still available to a certain class of Michigan public school employees.
After those years as a teacher, Maddox served as president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Michigan Education Association, from 1983 to 1991. During his time on the union’s payroll, Maddox was allowed to pretend he was on leave from his public school. employer. He could also use the six-figure MEA salary to generate a higher school pension after retirement.
Nothing in state law prohibits public school employees who entered into an agreement with their local school district in 1996 or before from applying the amount they receive in pay to an MEA union to obtain a state pension today – a payment guaranteed by the state constitution. After 1996, all agreements made by union officials with local school districts still allowed them to claim time spent working for the union as applying to their public school pension. But they can no longer apply their union salary to the pension calculation and must instead use their salary history as a public school employee.
The Pontiac school district that employed Maddox said it no longer had any records of the arrangement he made when he went to work for the union. Maddox was replaced as MEA chairman by Lu Battaglieri after a union election in 1999.
Many current and past MEA employees and officials have benefited from the school pension credit granted to them by state law, receiving larger public pensions than they otherwise would have had. Former MEA President Iris Salters receives an annual pension of $190,608 from a public school in Michigan. Battaglieri receives $117,180 per year. Former MEA Chairman Steve Cook received a pension of $103,227 in 2018. Cook died in 2020.
Current MEA President Paula Herbart has set up a pension plan with her former school district, Fraser Public Schools.