Executives at the Michigan Education Association, a labor union that represents public school teachers in the state, give themselves an annual pay hike. The mandated annual filing made by the union of its federal LM-2 form provided information on salaries and liabilities for the union.
 
The top four officials at MEA got an average increase of 18.6 percent over the last three years. MEA VP Nancy Strachan got a 25 percent increase during the 2012-2015 period, jumping from $119,520 to $149,433. Secretary-Treasures Rick Trainor also saw an increase of 25 percent during the same period: $121,476 to $151,675. For his part MEA President Steve Cook got an increase of 16 percent: $182,154 to $211,390, while MEA Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz had a 13 percent increase in 2012-2015 or $190,196 to $215,222 during the same period.
 
Teachers in the state of Michigan did not receive nearly the same level of increases. According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, a teacher in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools near Detroit had an increase of but 5 percent over the same three-year period, going from $57,448 to $60,346.
 
According to the same source, 13 of 17 Michigan public school districts did give teachers some level of pay increase in the 2014-2015 period. However, one of the 17 actually imposed a 1 percent reduction in pay.
 
Financial liabilities for the MEA are ballooning due to the cost of retirement benefits given to employees of the union. MEA’s liabilities increased, for example, increased from $206.2 million in 2014 to $304.1 million in 2015. Salaries that MEA reports to the federal government vary considerably each year. According to the MEA, payments it receives from school districts are delayed. This means that money earned in one year may not be reported until the next year. However, the trend has upward overall.
 
MEA President salary has increased since he came into the job, but remains approximately $24,000 short of what his predecessor made in 2011. Former MEA President Iris Salters made $235,447 in her lastl full year in the position. Cook’s salary in 2010 as vice president was $206,106, having been cut in 2011 to $196,594. Cook’s salary was reduced to $182,154 in 2012 in his first full year as president, but it has increased over three consecutive years.
 
According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, Jim Perialas – the president of Roscommon Teachers Association – said of the MEA “It’s the same thing I’ve always felt over the last 20 years: They are out of touch.” Moreover, said Perialas, “Nobody in the rank-and-file will call them out on it. It’s a money grab.” The Roscommon teachers union parted ways with the MEA in 2012 and has operated as an independent union since then. Roscommon is a rural area in the middle of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
 
Perialas once served as the chief negotiator for MEA in Roscommon for almost 20 years.
 
Following the split between the two groups, MEA attempted to entice Roscommon teachers to return to its ranks. The effort was unsuccessful. “It’s like this big comfy pillow (teachers) sleep on, the MEA. What people don’t really realize is that you can get another comfy pillow for half the cost, but the MEA has people believing that they are the sole provider of labor union benefits,” said Perialas. Teachers in Roscommon became incensed with MEA when they discovered that their former union was going to add a $50 fee to their union dues to help build up the “underfunded” pensions for union officials, said Perialas.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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