United Teachers Los Angeles has an uncommon dues structure in that it sets a single dues level for local, state and national dues. Its constitution requires a rank-and-file majority vote to approve any change to that system. As a consequence, the dues increases at the state and national levels have not been passed down to UTLA members, forcing the union to draw on its reserves to make up the difference.
UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl announced an internal campaign to increase dues by $19 per month for full-time members, or a total of $228 per year. This will raise annual dues for UTLA members from $689 to $917.
There is some justification for this. One of the few other large locals to use the same system was the Broward Teachers Union, and we all know how that ultimately turned out.
On the other hand, UTLA’s officers may be overstating their need for such a large increase. Though its dues are low compared with other large locals, UTLA is still a $40 million enterprise, with at least a dozen officers and staff making six-figure salaries. And the union’s bottom line appears healthy, with net assets of $28.3 million in 2013.
The real problem is how to get any dues increase past the members. The last attempt, in 2008, was approved by the UTLA board of directors by a 35-1 margin, and then was crushed by the rank-and-file, failing to achieve 40 percent support anywhere in the district.
If you are a Los Angeles teacher, expect visits this school year from union people you have never seen before, painting dreary pictures of the apocalypse that will surely occur if you fail to pony up a measly 63 cents a day. Be happy in the knowledge your dues money paid for that visit.