This past weekend, members of the Texas AFT Retiree+ executive board gathered in Austin for the group’s first in-person board meeting since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the Retiree+ executive board represent retirees of local unions from across the state. Throughout the meeting, members discussed strategies for addressing retiree issues, interacted with leaders in the state Legislature, and heard presentations by Texas AFT staff.
The main focus of the meeting was the fight for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to TRS retirees’ monthly pension annuity. A COLA would increase the monthly amount that retirees receive in their pension checks in order to account for the rising cost-of-living from inflation and other factors. Currently, the average TRS retiree’s monthly annuity is $2,145.
TRS retirees have not seen an increase to their monthly pension since 2013, and that increase only applied to TRS members who retired before August 2004. A dollar now is worth only two-thirds of what it used to be worth in 2004. So, the educators who retired after 2004 have had the spending power of their monthly annuity dramatically diminished. Most states provide an automatic COLA to teacher pension recipients, but teachers in Texas who retired after August 2004 have waited nearly two decades for theirs.
The executive board met with two members of the Texas Legislature via Zoom, both leaders on pension issues in the House: Transportation Chairman Terry Canales and Chairman Rafael Anchía. Canales recently wrote an Op-Ed in the Dallas Morning News calling on the Legislature to pass a COLA. Anchía chairs the Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services committee in the House, which deals with all pension-related bills. Both talked at length about the importance of passing a cost-of-living adjustment and both answered retirees’ questions in depth.
Phyllis Ruffin and Craig Adams, Texas AFT retirees who are running for two open positions on the TRS board of trustees (BOT), both spoke at the meeting. Phyllis and Craig need at least 250 signatures for their nomination petitions to be placed on the ballot next year. All retired TRS members can sign Craig’s nomination petition, and all active and retired TRS members can sign Phyllis’ petition.