I named the Michigan Education Association as one of NEA’s five financially shakiest state affiliates. Last weekend the union’s delegates elected new executive officers, but in a way that makes MEA’s future direction a little unclear.
Presidential and vice presidential candidates ran as a team. There were three teams:
* Tom Brenner, a member of the MEA executive committee, ran for president with Frank Burger, the president of an MEA local as his VP.
* Paula Herbart, the president of MEA Local 1, ran with Maury Koffman, who currently sits on the NEA Executive Committee.
* Rick Trainor, the current MEA secretary-treasurer, ran with Chandra Madafferi, an MEA local president.
But the delegates split their tickets, electing Herbart president and Madafferi vice president.
I don’t want to read too much into the result, but Trainor being the current secretary-treasurer might have actually worked against him. Koffman’s high-profile national position didn’t help him either.
More interesting was the race for MEA secretary-treasurer, won by Brett Smith. Candidates for union office routinely avoid details, or even differences between themselves and other candidates. “We will continue to work collaboratively to build partnerships with stakeholders and outside groups who share our vision and goals” is a typical pronouncement.
Smith made several specific pledges to delegates, one of which immediately caught my eye. “I would like to reduce the past due receivables that are attributed to membership dues in arrears by 25%,” he wrote in a candidate statement.
That’s not a sentence designed to win votes, or even make a delegate feel good, but it’s a major problem for MEA. Dozens of locals owe MEA money, almost $10 million of it more than 180 days past due.
That would be a start, but it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the flood of $300 million in staff pension and retiree health care liabilities.
With about 100,000 active members in a right-to-work state, MEA has the furthest to fall of all NEA state affiliates. Whether the new leadership is prepared to halt that descent is an open question.