UTLA Aims to Become Dual NEA/AFT Affiliate

When the members of the United Teachers Los Angeles approved a huge dues increase last February, they also agreed to put an end to UTLA’s unique structure. Now it will require a vote of the delegates to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly to approve UTLA’s status as a dual NEA/AFT affiliate.

Under the current practice, when teachers join UTLA they are given the individual choice of belonging to either NEA or the American Federation of Teachers. UTLA then passes the proportional amount of dues to each national organization. This year, of UTLA’s 31,000 members, about three-quarters belong to NEA and one-quarter to AFT.

That arrangement will end in September, when all UTLA members will be members of both NEA and AFT. There is a problem, however.

Under NEA bylaws, such dual affiliates have to send half of their national dues to NEA, and half to AFT. This would result in about $1.3 million being diverted from NEA to AFT. UTLA has introduced an NEA bylaw amendment that would allow it to continue sending three-quarters of its national dues to NEA.

NEA delegates are sure to approve it, since it saves money that would otherwise be lost to AFT. AFT might raise an eyebrow, but it is unlikely to object since merged NEA/AFT state affiliates disburse national dues in similar proportions. However, the union’s regulations dealing with dual-affiliated and merged affiliates are becoming complicated, and will lead increasingly to hard internal debates.