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home : news : watchdog May 24, 2016

5/4/2012 5:42:00 AM
In 2010, WEAC salaries surged by $1 million; brass top $200k
WEAC president Mary Bell
WEAC president Mary Bell

Richard Moore
Investigative Reporter

The Wisconsin Education Association Council continued to boast a robust financial bottom line in its latest reported fiscal year, with wages and benefits for union staff employees in 2010 surging by nearly a million dollars over the fiscal year ending in 2009.

The organization's net assets rose substantially as well, jumping from $15,301,436 to $16,142,325, a gain of 5.5 percent.

The figures are gleaned from WEAC's 2009 Form 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service for the year ending Aug. 31, 2010. It is the latest filing.

All totaled, WEAC's revenue for 2010 slipped just slightly from the previous year. The union took in $25,102,225 compared to $25,480,973 in 2009. Of the 2010 total, $23,322,957 came from union dues, also down a little from 2009's take of more than $23.4 million.

According to the IRS documents, the union mustered $1,543,455 from the National Education Association last year, up by more than $100,000 from the NEA's 2009 addition of $1,419,819.

The revenue dip occurred mostly in the union's investments. WEAC had $367,482 in investment income in 2009 but only $42,256 in 2010.

While these numbers are interesting, all eyes will be on the union's IRS 2010 filing later this year, which will cover a portion of the first year under Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining reforms. Those reforms prohibited public employers from automatically deducting union dues from an employee's paycheck and allowed teachers and other public employees to forgo paying dues completely. A recent court ruling ordered the restoration of dues' deductions, but only of voluntary deductions.

The 2010 numbers will reflect, at least in part, how much union membership WEAC has voluntarily retained. In one sign of trouble, the union last August issued layoff notices to 40 percent of its staff.

Last May, staring at the upcoming reforms, WEAC took several belt-tightening steps at its representative assembly. Delegates voted to discontinue the annual fall WEAC convention, cancelled the 2011 WEAC Summer Academy and adopted a budget that included up to $7.5 million in cuts.

Good work if you can get it

WEAC is a big business, anyway you look at it, but the money streaming in to the state union doesn't tell the whole story for rank-and-file members.

In addition to the $315 in annual dues that full-time teachers shell out to the state unit, which includes $19.99 to the WEAC political action committee for political campaigns and lobbying, they pay local union dues and $166 to the National Education Association.

Before the collective bargaining reforms, contributions to WEAC and the NEA cost every full-time teacher $481 a year - members could request to have the PAC money refunded - while total dues could swell to more than $700 a year per teacher.

The dues of part-time teachers are pro-rated.

Contrary to public perception, the $23.3 million in union membership dues paid to WEAC do not end up in the campaign coffers of political candidates. As a nonprofit, WEAC cannot directly spend its members' dues on political activity - that's where the PAC contributions come in - but critics say unions still manage to directly divert resources into political campaigns, despite the prohibition.

For example, unions routinely assign staff to carry out implicit political duties for various candidates, effectively converting them into campaign staff. Indeed, in a May 2011 statement, WEAC president Mary Bell said union staff was "key" as the union worked "to restore a balance of power through upcoming recall elections."

What's more, membership dues can be used to mobilize "nonpartisan" voter registration efforts and get-out-the-vote campaigns and can fund so-called political "education" efforts among union members.

Those salaries and benefits

As it turns out, most of the membership dues go to pay the organization's salaries and benefits, some of which are quite lucrative.

For example, according to the 2009 fiscal year IRS form, the organization employed 147 people in 2010 and paid them $15,314,553. That's an average of $104,180.63 for every employee, and it's almost a million dollars more than the $14,382,812 paid to 151 employees in 2009, at an average of $95,250 per employee.

On average, then each WEAC employee received an $8,930.63 raise over the previous year. But high-ranking union officials were doing much better than that.

For instance, Dan Burkhalter, WEAC executive director, raked in $264,058, with $180,944 in wages, for about a $22,000 compensation gain over 2009; government relations director Robert Burke hauled in $204,856, with wages of $142,987, for a compensation gain of approximately $15,000; information and communications technology director Nathan Harper made $210,034, with wages of $139,089, for a compensation raise of about $21,000; financial and membership services director Jane Oberdorf made $210,996, with wages of $139,826, for a compensation hike of almost $23,000; affiliate relations director Robert Baxter was paid $207,674, with wages of $136,563, for a gain of more than $21,000; and collective bargaining director Daniel Holub made $204,053, with wages of $133,791, a boost totaling about $39,000.

As for Bell, the union's public persona, who describes herself as a teacher of 34 years from Wisconsin Rapids, she made $186,705, with wages of $131,811, and a compensation raise over 2009 of a little more than $13.000. That's on par with Gov. Scott Walker's salary of $144,423.

All totaled, those seven employees collected $1,488,376 with wages of $1,005,011. That's up from the $1,335,043 the same seven made in 2009, with wages that year of $942,682. On average, it's a $21,904 boost for each employee.

But there's more. Feeling flush in the days before Scott Walker was elected, the union added another key employee, Charlene Gearing, whose total compensation was $195,944 and $139,913 in wages (WEAC reported a severance package for her during the year), bringing the total compensation to its top eight employees to $1,684,320, or an average of $210,540 per employee.

Expenses, expenses

Beyond wages and salaries, WEAC paid out $908,741 in legal expenses ($801,105 in 2009), another $68,335 in accounting costs (up from $59,357), and $1,392,419 in office expenses (about the same as the year before). The group traveled heavily, but their expenses were down a little from 2009 - $1,781,555 compared to $1,835,207 on travel expenses and $124,184 in conferences, conventions and meetings, substantially down from 2009 expenditures.

It spent $2,154,794 on "other fees for services."

What's more, the organization shelled out operating assistance grants totaling $1,287,812 to various local unions and its regional offices, known as UniServes, including $361,770 to Northern Tier UniServe in Rhinelander.

WEAC awarded scholarships that year, too, but the amount paled in comparison to other outlays. The union awarded just $20,300 in scholarships, or, said another way, the organization gave back in scholarships $1 for every $1,236.56 of revenue it took in.

Richard Moore may be reached at richardmoore.gov@gmail.com

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012
Article comment by: don myers

We now have fallen to 17th. in Science and 25th. in Math... and still we have to spend more money??

If it was about money our kids would all have PHDs.

Our Children learned more and led the world in competitive rankings when they were taught in 1 room schools because they were, and their teachers were held accountable.

If our teachers want increased pay and benefits pay them on performance... the top performing teachers SHOULD be rewarded and could be rewarded if we stopped wasting our precious resourses protecting or re-assigning the failing teachers hiding behind the folly of tenure.

If our best educators were compensated like those in the private sector the acheivers would be appreciated as they should be appreciated and paid what they are worth. And Then... it WOULD be for the children!

Posted: Sunday, May 6, 2012
Article comment by: Patrick Murphy

Come on Wisconsin voters, you have to see the true reason for the recall election. Rick Smith is right, it has nothing to do with the kids, but completely about union greed.

Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012
Article comment by: Rick Smith

$1 dollar for very $1million dollars of revenue for scholarships. Yeah right, ITS FOR THE KIDS!!!

and some people want the union to control our state again???

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