American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten has accrued a potential six-figure, taxpayer-funded New York City pension during her more than a decade as head of the teachers union’s local affiliate — when she didn’t actually teach — according to an analysis from a conservative labor group.
A labor lawyer by trade, Weingarten, 65, who earns more than $540,000 as AFT leader, taught full-time at a Brooklyn high school for around three years in the 1990s before leaving to run the United Federation of Teachers — but is still eligible to receive $15,000 annually when she retires thanks to the city’s generous agreement with her union and the city.
The Freedom Foundation obtained records revealing that the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York has credited Weingarten with 15 years of service as a teacher, despite her serving roughly 11 of those years out of the classroom as president of UFT.
The teachers union president is poised to rake in more than $200,000 over 15 years from the Teacher Retirement System of the City of New York if she chooses to retire at 70, the group found after submitting Freedom of Information Law requests.
“Weingarten has been able to accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension benefits while spending very little time teaching in the classroom,” Maxford Nelsen, the Freedom Foundation’s director of labor policy told The Post. “It’s a result of a policy decision made by city officials with the union.”
Weingarten was a social studies teacher at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights between 1994 and 1997, and before that served as a substitute teacher for three years.
Asked about her city pension, Weingarten disputed the findings on what her annual benefit would be at age 70 as “completely wrong.”
“I would have to check with UFT and TRS [Teachers Retirement System] on the other or find a quarterly statement, none of which I have right now,” she said.
The union president then cc’d AFT and UFT reps to “follow up.”
During her testimony before the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in April, Weingarten also disclosed that she has been “on leave” from her position in the New York City school system since becoming president of UFT, which the Freedom Foundation confirmed through a FOIL request last year.
As part of UFT’s collective bargaining agreement with the city, teachers may go on leave without pay to work for the teachers union — allowing them to count those years toward an eventual pension in the Teacher Retirement System.
The system typically vests teachers with pensions after 5 years of service in the classroom.
Under the agreement, a portion of those members taking leaves of absence without pay are still eligible for pensions without contributions being made on their behalf by the union.
Weingarten is also poised to get an even more generous pension for her union duties when she retires. She earns at least $543,562 per year from AFT and $57,000 is set aside for “retirement and other deferred compensation.”
“The New York Post has refused to provide us with the supposed analysis this story is based on. Regardless, it’s pure speculation because Ms. Weingarten is not retired,” AFT spokesman Andrew Crook said.
“Ms. Weingarten has worked on behalf of UFT members—including teaching in NYC public schools—for nearly 40 years.”
The Post did provide a summary of the report to AFT when asked for comment.
Weingarten began serving as a legal counsel at UFT in 1986 before becoming a teacher.
Other records obtained by the Freedom Foundation show she worked about two hours a day as a substitute from September 1991 to August 1994, amounting to about a year of service in her retirement account.
She worked as a “regularly appointed” teacher from September 1994 to spring 1997. Her last reported salary as a teacher was $64,313.
Freedom Foundation estimates that the teachers union chief may have contributed as little as $7,200 to her pension during her years of service.
Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks had no immediate comment on Weingarten’s pension and whether they would curb “leave” benefits for teachers who are performing union duties instead of teaching kids. City Hall is currently in talks with the UFT to hammer out a new labor contract.