MEA Executives Take Big Pay Raises While Liabilities Continue to Grow

Pay hikes up to 44 percent come while union reports assets of negative $135 million

While some of its dues-paying members are taking pay freezes, top executives of the Michigan Education Association took salary raises ranging from $13,591 to as high as $48,385 in 2014, according to the financial reports the union recently filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rick Trainor, the MEA’s secretary-treasurer, had the biggest increase. His salary jumped 44 percent from $109,911 to $158,296. Nancy Strachan, the MEA vice president, saw her salary increase 16 percent from $124,603 to $144,700. Steve Cook, the union's president, had his salary increase 11 percent from $182,698 to $203,144. Gretchen Dziadosz, the MEA’s executive director, saw her salary increase 6 percent from $211,267 to $224,858.

The salary increases for the union's top executives come at a time when the MEA is experiencing a loss of membership, an increase in school employee union dues and escalating costs of retirement benefits given to its own employees. As a result, the union's total liabilities have continued to increase; up to $206 million this year.

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Many MEA members are taking pay freezes or cuts, largely due to rising costs of the state-run school employee retirement system, and in some cases so their districts can have a balanced budget.

The MEA has similar risings costs – health care costs for its own retirees increased by nearly $21 million in one year. According to the new report, the union's net worth (assets minus liabilities) fell another $22.5 million into the red, now standing at a negative $134.8 million.

The MEA also reported that its membership dropped from 147,659 in 2013 to 142,555 in 2014. But none of that prevented giving large raises to its top executives.

Despite the double-digit percentage increase in salary, Cook’s annual pay isn’t nearly as much as his predecessor, Iris Salters. In 2011, Salters made $235,447 in salary as the president of the MEA. But the MEA had 11,000 plus more members three years ago.

The MEA did not respond to a request for comment.

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