News Story

Spiking Pensions: Another MEA Executive Involved in Special Deals

Scheme takes funds from real school employees

The secretary-treasurer of the state’s largest teachers union is one of several top union executives involved in a pension spiking scheme in public school districts. The arrangement increases the union officials' retirement payouts from the state-run school pension system.

The officials are all former school employees who left public employment to work for the union full time. Under the spiking arrangement, however, they are still carried on school payrolls — and as a result are still accumulating pension credits with the school retirement system.

Rick Trainor was a teacher for 21 years at the Mount Pleasant school district. In 2011 he left the district to become secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Education Association. But under Trainor’s deal with the school district, he can add his years as a union employee to his time on the school payroll. The result will be a larger government pension for him.

The top of the scale salary for a teacher with a master’s degree at Mount Pleasant is $65,003. Trainor’s salary at the MEA is $151,675, according to papers filed with the federal Department of Labor. He is allowed to apply $83,570 of his pay each year to the formula used to determine his final pension payouts. If he retires this year, Trainor’s augmented pension would be an estimated $32,592

Had he remained a teacher at a top-of-the-scale teacher salary, Trainor would instead collect an estimated $25,351. The extra $7,241 he’ll collect for the rest of his life will come out the school pension system, which was underfunded by $26.7 billion as of 2015.

In response to an open records law request, the district reported that Trainor is still carried on its payroll for $83,570, for which it is reimbursed by the MEA.

MEA President Steve Cook, Vice President Nancy Strachan and previous MEA presidents Iris Salters and Luigi Battaglieri all enjoy similar pension spiking deals.

Trainor didn't respond to an email seeking comment. The MEA has not responded to emails about the pension spiking deals.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.