In Partnership with 74

UTLA treasurer explains a decade of budget deficits, with more looming

Mike Szymanski | July 14, 2015

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UTLA Treasurer Arlene Inouye

UTLA, the LA Unified teachers union, has been operating at a deficit for seven of the last 10 years, the union’s treasurer, Arlene Inouye, wrote in the group’s May newsletter.

She said union officials approved deficit budgets for three years during the past decade, but when actual expenses were applied, the union overspent in four additional years since 2006,

Contributing to the deficits, she wrote, were a variety of rising costs, including “representational services, communications, staff health care and other insurance, organizational expenses and technology.”

Another factor she cited in contributing the the deficits has been the drop in membership. Inouye said the union has lost 10,000 members since 2007.

Overall, she wrote in her report, which is available on the UTLA website, the union has lost “more than $2.5 million” over the last three years.

And another year in the red may be looming: The union’s budget for the 2015-2016, she said, “projects an operating deficit of approximately $1.5 million, which is roughly $425,000 more than the $1.1 million operating deficit approved with last year’s budget.”

The deficit would be offset “by the additional dues revenue from the salary increases” in the union’s new contract with LA Unified. Also helping is a transfer of $3 million from the union’s strike fund to the general fund.

Despite all the efforts to balance the budget, Inouye said the budget for the new year “brightly highlights the fact that our current dues structure, in which UTLA members pay the lowest dues for membership of any local teachers’ union in the state of California, is unsustainable.” Since 1970, when UTLA was formed, the dues have remained at 1.5 percent of a beginning teacher’s salary.

“UTLA is at an important crossroads,” she wrote. “While the issue of financial sustainability is not new to UTLA, the issue has been accelerated by ongoing trends and events.”

And another threat is on the horizon. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in the fall that challenges the collection of agency fees from nonmembers who benefit from union activity. A victory by the plaintiffs in the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, would deprive unions of millions of dollars they currently receive through dues.

“This attack directly impacts UTLA, and we will have a proactive and comprehensive fight back,” Inouye noted.

Last month, UTLA formed a broad Financial Sustainability Task force with members from the eight areas of the city, past UTLA leaders, the Budget Committee, and state and national affiliate partners to work on solutions.

Efforts to reach Inouye through the union’s communications office were unsuccessful, but a spokeswoman said her analysis in the newsletter remains up-to-date.


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