NEA Sends Older Employees Heading for the Exit
posted at 5:17 pm on February 21, 2012 by Mike Antonucci
Two weeks ago, the Education Intelligence Agency reported on the financial difficulties faced by the National Education Association and its state affiliates. Now we have details of the corrective measures the union is taking at the national level to deal with persistent budget deficits.
NEA had already planned some cuts to close an estimated $17 million deficit, but evidently the union finds itself needing an additional $9.5 million to balance income with expenditures. Unfortunately, the union’s internal structure is not designed with swift and abrupt cost-cutting in mind. NEA has first transferred $1.9 million from its $3 million contingency fund into its general fund.
There is little relief to expect on the revenue side. Dues levels are set according to formula that is based on the average classroom teacher salary. Expected national dues for 2012-13 will be $180, a $2 per member increase.
But even that amount may be reduced or eliminated by continued membership losses. Last December 19, EIA reported: “It may take some time, and will probably happen under cover of darkness, but soon the claim that the National Education Association represents 3.2 million members will be adjusted downward, as the latest figures show the union’s total membership at well under 3.1 million.”
It is a measure of how serious the situation is that NEA executives see severe staff reductions as their only remaining option. NEA employees have been presented with an “exit program,” which is essentially an early retirement incentive. About 124 NEA staffers (out of about 580) are eligible to retire. The union is offering an additional 10 weeks of severance pay if they submit their paperwork by March 15. Most NEA employees are already guaranteed one week of severance pay for each year employed, up to 10.
The union is banking heavily on staffers accepting the offer, as “immediate” reductions in force and layoffs are the alternative. But there’s a problem.
Union “management” and confidential assistants may be dismissed right away, but most NEA employees are themselves members of unions, known as staff unions. And NEA is unable to lay off staff union members without 60 days of bargaining to come up with alternative measures. If no agreement is reached and NEA decides to go ahead with layoffs, the affected employees receive an additional 30 days notice. That means the school year will be over before the payroll can be reduced.
NEA’s financial troubles also have a ripple effect. Approximately one-third of the national union’s income is returned to its state affiliates in the form of UniServ grants. These grants help fund the cost of employing each state’s UniServ directors, who assist locals in contract negotiations, grievance processing and political action. Essentially, each UniServ grant is meant to provide services to 1,200 members. NEA expects that each 2012-13 grant will have to be reduced from the current $37,048 to $34,850 – almost a 6 percent cut. Affiliates will have to make up the difference themselves or reduce their own staffs in response.
As I have warned before, all these black clouds over NEA do not greatly affect its political action operations, particularly at the state level. The national union’s ballot measure/legislative crises fund is a segregated account with $27 million stashed away – of which only $6 million has already been awarded. The remaining amount is more than enough to exert a great influence on political campaigns in 2012.