Professional Fire Fighters Association of Alabama (PFFA) President David Harer in December became the first IAFF member elected as a trustee for the state’s largest retirement system.
“I am looking forward to being a voice for fire fighters and all Alabama workers,” says Harer. “Alabama workers put in decades of service to our state and should receive the retirement benefits promised to them. My role is to ensure that happens.”
The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) is a two-tier retirement system. Tier 2 includes employees hired after January 1, 2013. The big difference for IAFF members is with Tier 1, members can retire after 25 years, but are credited for 30 years. Tier 2 members cannot retire until the age of 57, regardless of years worked.
The Employees’ Retirement Board of Control is composed of 13 members who are elected, appointed or hold office ex officio. The members of the Board are the trustees of the retirement funds and are responsible for the management and administration of the retirement system. Harer is one of two active employees who sit on the board.
Harer, with Huntsville Local 1833 member Geoff Statum and other Alabama IAFF leaders, became increasingly involved in protecting the state pension system after Pew Charitable Trusts and other outside interest groups began lobbying the Alabama state legislature to transition the pension system into a 401(k)-style retirement plan instead of a defined benefit plan.
Alabama IAFF leaders formed an ongoing education campaign, “Save Our RSA,” to keep lawmakers and the public informed about the health of the pension and the impact of any proposed changes to the retirement system.
“We have a Facebook page that has more than 71,000 followers, including many of our state senators and representatives,” says Harer. “Getting decision makers and the public engaged in understanding the pension system has been critical to protecting our retirement benefits.”
Today, the pension is still a defined benefit plan and is funded at 72 percent.