L.A. teachers reject jumbo dues hike

Union leaders out-of-touch with rank-and-file

The 38% dues hike (see below) proposed and authorized by the leadership and representative bodies of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) was defeated by a 2 to 1 margin in a rank-and-file vote.

The proposal did not garner 40% support in any area of the district, receiving just 5,713 votes overall. There were 11,413 "no" votes, which means that about 60% of UTLA members could not bother themselves to vote in an election to determine whether an additional $264 would be taken from their paychecks.

UTLA Wants to Raise Dues by 38%

As EIA reported three weeks ago, United Teachers Los Angeles was setting up members for a dues increase by comparing its $689.04 dues to other locals in California and elsewhere. But not since the Michigan Education Association extracted an additional $112 from its members have we seen such a bold and sizable dues hike.

UTLA leaders want to alter the provision of the union's constitution that currently sets dues at 1.5% of the minimum teacher salary and convert it to 1.5% of the average teacher salary. UTLA computes the annual increase at $264 – a 38% increase. Two weeks ago, the union's board of directors approved the plan by a 35-1 vote. It will go before the UTLA House of Representatives on June 4 and, if approved, will be subject to a rank-and-file vote from June 9-12.

The outcome of the vote is of less interest to me than the turnout. Rank-and-file voting for union officers is notoriously poor, especially in Los Angeles. What would it say if the members can't be bothered enough to at least vote their preference on whether they want large sums of money extracted from their paychecks?

I'm also struck by the appeal of UTLA President A.J. Duffy, who noted in his regular column in the May 16 United Teacher that the dues increase "amounts to 72 cents a day – far less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks." A similar comparison was used when the California Teachers Association enacted its huge assessment in 2005.

The Los Angeles Unified School District should try the same tactic. For the price of the UTLA dues increase, the district could save the jobs of a couple of hundred classroom teachers. Isn't that worth a daily cup of coffee?


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