News Story

Former Teachers Union Heads, Staff, Parlayed Big MEA Paychecks Into Jumbo Public Pensions

Ex-MEA presidents get state-constitution guaranteed six-figure pensions

Julius Maddox was a junior high teacher in the Pontiac public school district in the 1980s.Today, Maddox is collecting an annual Michigan school pension of $144,276.

The outsized public pension Maddox receives is due to a union scheme he took advantage of decades ago. And it’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 payroll, Maddox was allowed to claim that he was on leave from his public school employer. He could also use the six-figure MEA salary to generate a higher school pension payout after he retired.

Nothing in state law prohibits public school employees who struck a deal with their local school district in 1996 or earlier from applying the amount they collect in an MEA union salary toward getting a state pension today — a payment guaranteed by the state constitution. After 1996, any deals union officials have with local school districts still let them claim time served 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 use their salary history as a public school employee instead.

The Pontiac school district that employed Maddox stated it no longer has any records on the arrangement it made when he went to work for the union. Maddox was succeeded as MEA president by Lu Battaglieri after a 1999 union election.

Many current and past MEA employees and officials have benefitted from the school pension credit allowed to them by state law, collecting larger public pensions than they would have had otherwise. Former MEA President Iris Salters is collecting an annual Michigan public school pension of $190,608. Battaglieri is getting $117,180 annually. Former MEA President Steve Cook collected a pension of $103,227 in 2018. Cook died in 2020.

Current MEA President Paula Herbart has a pension scheme set up with her former school district, Fraser Public Schools.

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.