Michigan Education Association members paid about $66.6 million
in dues and fees to the union in 2006-2007, a 5 percent increase over the
previous year even as the number of active teacher memberships decreased. Total
income and spending by the MEA, the state’s largest employee union, also
In filings with the U.S. Department of Labor, the MEA reported
total membership of 157,181, about 200 more than the previous year. The number
of student and retired members grew, but active educator memberships declined by
about 1,500, while support personnel membership remained essentially unchanged.
The number of fee payers — individuals who choose not to join the union but pay
a fee for its services — rose from 685 to 734.
MEA dues are calculated as a percentage of a teacher’s salary,
to a maximum of $620 per year. That does not include dues paid to the National
The MEA reported spending $31.5 million last year on employee
compensation, up 8 percent from the previous year. The average MEA employee
earned about $81,000, although the actual figures ranged from a high of
approximately $204,000, the gross salary recorded for Arthur Przybylowicz,
general counsel, to $8,500 paid to a bargainer. Executive director Luigi
Battaglieri’s gross salary was reported as $195,000. The average Uniserv
director salary was about $100,000.
In comparison, the average Michigan teacher earns $58,482,
according to salary tables at the National Education Association Web site. The
gap between the average teacher salary and average union employee salary widened
by about $1,000 since Michigan Education Report reported on union filings in
2006. About 40 percent of MEA employees earned $100,000 or more in 2006-2007.
The MEA did not respond to a request for comment on the report.
In Coopersville, elementary teacher David Eppelheimer said that
he does not object to some MEA employees, specifically Uniserv directors,
earning more than the average teacher, but that "their rate of increase should
be no more than the average teacher."
"If their wages are going up faster than the industry they’re
working for, there’s a problem," he said. "They should be reflective."
Uniserv directors work with local teacher unions on a variety of
issues, among them organizing, bargaining and grievance procedures. As for other
MEA staff members, such as clerical employees, Eppelheimer said their wages
should be comparable to those found in local public school systems.
"I do believe many MEA salaries are out of line with
rank-and-file MEA members, and are increasing at a much greater rate than the
typical teacher," said Judith Meier, a junior high school teacher in Vassar
In addition to employees, the MEA also spent about $809,000 on
officers and board members, of which $540,000 was for salaries and the remainder
was for other reimbursements. That amount was down about $100,000 from a year
MEA President Iris Salters received a salary of $198,945 from
the union, according to the filing, which covers the time period of Sept. 1,
2006, to Aug. 31, 2007. Vice President Steven Cook received $178,000, while
Margaret McClellan, secretary/treasurer, received about $122,000.
With the exception of the top three positions, most MEA board
members receive $1,000 or less, much of it labeled as disbursements for official
A University of Michigan labor researcher was not surprised that
compensation for union officials and employees rose more than the average
teacher salary despite Michigan’s tough economy.
"In Michigan and elsewhere, we’re seeing a ratcheting down of
wages and benefits in the private sector," which leads to similar downward
stress in public sector services, said Roland Zullo, an assistant research
scientist in the university’s Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations.
That situation creates more work for union negotiators, not
less, he said. If there is less money available, opposing groups take longer to
come to terms on how to spend it, he said, suggesting that administrative
salaries have not been reduced either, for the same reason.
"In a difficult climate, it sometimes makes it (negotiations)
more costly," he said. "When times are good, it’s easier to negotiate a
settlement, for all the parties."
Dues and fees accounted for about half of the MEA’s total income
of $131.8 million during the period covered. Other revenue came from a wide
variety of sources, including about $5.3 million from the National Education
Association and $4.7 million from the Michigan Education Special Services
Association. MESSA is a third-party insurance administrator established by and
affiliated with the MEA. It pays the union for marketing and shared service
fees, according to the filing. About $32 million in receipts is listed as "all
other," with no source named.
The MEA’s total spending topped $124 million, up 5 percent over
the previous year. Of that, $16 million was spent on representational
activities, according to the report. The union spent $56 million on general
overhead, $20 million on benefits and $6 million on union administration.
On the spending side, the report shows that the percentage of
hours that MEA employees spent on "representational activities" decreased 4
percent from 2006 to 2007. On average, union members spend 41 percent of their
time representing members, the report said.
The American Federation of Teachers Michigan also filed its
annual report with the Department of Labor, reporting that its president, David
Hecker, received a salary of approximately $128,000. Lois Doniver,
secretary/treasurer, received approximately $97,000. With allowances and
disbursements for official business, the total spent on the two officers was
AFT members paid about $2 million in dues and fees to the union
in 2006/2007, down nearly a third from $3 million the previous year. Total
income of $3.2 million was down 16 percent from a year ago, and total spending
was down 22 percent.
The AFT Michigan represents about 25,000 employees in 94 locals
across Michigan, according to its Web site.
Membership was up by nearly 1,000 in 2007 compared to a year
ago, but a larger share of members are now in half-time or quarter-time
positions. The number of full-time working members of the AFT shrank by about
300. The number of AFT fee payers grew by 400 and now represents 5 percent of
The AFT reported having 40 employees. Jeanette Harris,
comptroller, Jon Curtiss, organizer and Julie Matuzik, political organizer, each
received the top gross salary of $104,353. The average salary was about $50,000,
but that includes five people making less than $10,000 and three making less
than $500 for the year. When those eight are excluded, the average salary equals
In addition to requiring labor unions to file financial reports,
the Department of Labor requires separate filings called "Officer and Employer
Reports" from union officers, employees and businesses or other organizations
that do business with unions or their officials.
The separate filings show that, in addition to their income from
the Michigan Education Association, several officers and employees of the union
have received income or gifts in recent years from sources that do business with
Salters is a member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
board of directors, which reported expenditures or payments of about $33,000 to
her in 2006. That included $31,000 in board fees and smaller amounts for
assorted receptions, as well as $1,200 for Super Bowl tickets. A number of large
and small labor organizations are represented on the BCBSM board, which sells
insurance products directly to school districts and indirectly through the MESSA,
an MEA-affiliated insurance administrator. Salters also reported receiving about
$1,800 in gifts, meals and football tickets directly from MESSA as a member of
Salters also sits on the board of directors of The Accident Fund
Insurance Co., headquartered in Lansing. The company reported paying her about
$16,000 in board fees and for the cost of board receptions in 2006.
Battaglieri, the MEA executive director, reported that he
received $28,688 as a board member of Delta Dental Plan of Michigan in 2006 in
the form of a monthly retainer, meetings stipend and for meals and lodging
associated with meetings. Delta underwrites part of the MESSA insurance plan. He
also reported receiving about $1,800 in football tickets, gifts, hotel rooms and
meals directly from MESSA. Battaglieri is MESSA’s executive secretary.
Przybylowicz, MEA general counsel, reported that his wife,
Suzanne K. Clark, received about $96,000 from the MEA in 2006 through her law
practice. Clark is affiliated with Lee & Associates, PLLC, a Southfield law firm
that did $512,000 of work with the MEA that year. Przbylowicz’s own salary from
the MEA was reported as $204,000.
A copy of the labor
filings from the U.S. Department of Labor is available at