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Home » Clarion » 2023 » October 2023 » Fighting CUNY’s pension nightmare

Fighting CUNY’s pension nightmare

Lawsuit for impacted members By ARI PAUL

Celia Sporer is one of many members seeking justice. (Credit: Paul Frangipane)

Celia Sporer is one of many members seeking justice. (Credit: Paul Frangipane)

Celia Sporer, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Queensborough Community College, is one of many PSC members seeking pension justice.

Like many PSC members, she did exactly what she was supposed to do to get her retirement contributions started once she was hired. “I signed every paper and authorized everything I was told to [do]. And for the past seven years, I trusted that CUNY was properly handling my pension,” she said in an op-ed published in the Daily News.

Info vanished

But after seven years, she explained, CUNY told her that she had no account and no record of ever having a pension. This was supposed to be the retirement plan for her, and a financial plan for her children.

She explained how this happened in the op-ed: “After I signed up for [the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS)], Queensborough did not set up my deductions and payments to TRS as it should have. TRS still had me listed as an adjunct at John Jay. And since I didn’t work at John Jay anymore – and CUNY schools fail to communicate with each other as they should – the administration at John Jay simply threw out the letters TRS sent them. But Queensborough knew this was happening in 2018, when they sent an email to TRS with a list of people like myself who were not getting deductions for their pensions. But not only did they not follow through on a solution, they never even bothered to tell me about the email or that there was even an issue.”

This leaves her in a terrible predicament: “I now owe $33,000 to make up for the seven years without deductions plus seven years of interest.” In addition to her regular deductions, it will take another 14 years for her to make up for these back payments.

“And here’s the kicker: I’m not vested until I pay all of that $33,000,” Sporer said in the article. “If I don’t get tenure or have to move for my family before then, I leave with nothing.”

Uncaring admin

Speaking to Clarion, Sporer said she wants justice. “I was very, very angry at the beginning,” she said. “Somebody didn’t do their job. I did what I was supposed to do…. Somebody dropped the ball, and nobody bothered to contact me, and nobody was really apologetic. They were like, ‘It happens.’”

She added, “Somebody needs to take responsibility. We need to make sure this never happens again.”

Sporer is just one of many living this nightmare. There are dozens – perhaps even hundreds – of members throughout the University stuck in the same Kafkaesque situation.

The union has filed a lawsuit against the University in order to rectify the situation. The suit states that CUNY failed in its responsibility to deduct pension contributions from the raises achieved in the 2010–17 PSC-CUNY contract. This has caused, the suit states, “some retired PSC members to receive lower pensions than they are entitled to.”

From the union’s point of view, CUNY is responsible for ensuring that eligible CUNY employees are properly informed about the pension options and enroll them accordingly. The union hopes that the lawsuit, which fully documents how members’ lives have been upended by CUNY’s mishandling of financial information, will make its members whole.

For more information about the lawsuit and whether you might be impacted, go to:

 If you believe your pension might be impacted, contact Greg Douros at [email protected].

Published: September 27, 2023

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