Antonucci: How is UTLA spending that dues increase?

Two years ago, members of United Teachers Los Angeles voted by a large margin to raise their dues by 33 percent. UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl warned that if the increase failed, the union would be “bankrupt or dramatically weakened.”

UTLA did have a dues system that was unlike that of other teacher unions. When the state and national unions that are UTLA’s parent organizations increased their dues, UTLA’s constitution did not allow the increase to be passed down to the members without a vote. A previous attempt to boost the dues level in 2008 was soundly defeated. This left UTLA in a position of having to absorb the parent union dues increases from its own budget.

We now have the union’s IRS filings for 2015-16, which was the final year before the increase went into effect. While it is clear the union was paying more to its affiliates than it was getting back, the claims of a financial crisis seem to have been wildly overblown. The only area where UTLA was unable, or unwilling, to keep its costs in check was in compensating its own officers and staff.

In 2016 UTLA took in almost $41 million in revenue. It sent $25 million to its parent unions but received $14.5 million back in grants. All of those figures were up about 1.5 percent from the previous year.

The union ran very small deficits – less than $150,000 combined – over the two-year period, with its net assets remaining steady at about $28.6 million. That’s pretty far from bankruptcy.

However, spending on salaries and benefits for UTLA’s officers and employees increased 9 percent. And that’s after an increase of 11.6 percent the year before.

The current UTLA budget is unavailable to outsiders, although the union did relay to members that “operating expenses will be similar to last year.”

The estimated additional $7 million from the dues increase is being spent on something, or someone. Perhaps UTLA members are well-informed about this. Or perhaps they will have to wait with the rest of us until next year to see where it went.

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.