The Michigan Education Association has often fought against lawmakers looking for cost savings in its members’ state-run pension program.
Now comes a report that they might have a problem paying for their own staffer’s pension liabilities.
The MEA has $174.5 million in retirement liabilities and just $66.3 million in dues in 2008-09, according to the Education Intelligence Agency, a research firm out of California run by Mike Antonucci. The Education Intelligence Agency also reports that the MEA lost 3,000 members in 2009.
“These fiscal problems for the MEA can’t be solely pinned on poor performance on their investments,” wrote Michael Van Beek, the director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in an e-mail. “These liabilities are the result of the union trying to maintain unsustainable employee benefits — the same kind of benefits that they lobby Lansing to make taxpayers pay for. The great irony about the MEA’s struggle to manage their own labor costs is that they often march into school districts and tell school boards how to manage theirs.”
This isn’t the first time the MEA has faced a financial crisis, the Education Intelligence Agency reports. The MEA cut 47 positions and raised dues by almost $112 per year in 2003.
In an e-mail, Antonucci predicted the MEA would have to cut staff again.
“Union staff reductions this year are inevitable,” Antonucci wrote. “MEA will no doubt have to deal with member blowback over increasing dues and decreasing services to fund generous benefits for those who no longer work for MEA.”
The MEA’s pension for its staffers is paid for by union dues because it is a private organization, Antonucci said.
Doug Pratt, the MEA’s director of communications, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The MEA made news this spring when it was reported by the Lansing State Journal that some staffers and officials got pay raises in 2009 ranging from 6.8 percent for the mailroom coordinator to 15 percent for President Iris Salters.