Union Honcho’s Salary Enough to Pay 10 Teachers

AFT Head Weingarten pulled in $560,000 last year

Randi Weingarten
Randi Weingarten / AP
October 2, 2014

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten is paid 10 times as much money as the average teacher, according to new federal labor filings. 

Weingarten earned nearly $560,000 in total compensation during the 2013-2014 school year, according to Department of Labor filings.That figure includes a total salary of $375,174 for the year, as well as more than $180,000 in additional benefits and expenses. 

The $50,300 she collected in "allowances disbursed," which cover unnamed perks indirectly related to business, was just $6,000 less than the average teacher earned for the 2012-2013 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Weingarten has enjoyed steady pay increases, as teachers nationwide have seen salaries decrease in the wake of the Great Recession and tight budget constraints at the state and local level.

Her compensation increased by about $115,000 from 2009 to 2013, while average teacher pay fell 4 percent. Weingarten’s mirrors the growth in overhead costs at the AFT. The union spent more than $44 million on union administration and overhead last year, a 25 percent jump from 2008 when Weingarten was elected president.

Weingarten slammed school reformers at the 2013 AFT convention, claiming that they were trying to profit from education. The key to defeating such politicians, according to the union president, is to join the union and pay dues.

"These are the people who aren’t in education to make a difference, but to make a buck—and who don’t want you to have the ability to stand together as a union and have a voice in the work you do," Weingarten said.

The AFT did not respond to request for comment.

The union now represents nearly 1.6 million teachers up from about 855,000 in 2008. Dues to the national union increased by 21 percent between 2008 and 2014.

Representational activity spending has only increased 11 percent since Weingarten took office, despite the rapid membership growth. The AFT’s budget for politics and overhead, on the other hand, has boomed.

The union spent nearly $25 million on politics and lobbying last year, a 33 percent jump from the 2008 presidential campaign. Additionally, AFT officials told the Huffington Postthat the union would spend record amounts helping Democrats control the Senate and defeat Republican governors in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

"In this election cycle, an AFT official told HuffPost, the union is on track to spend more than $20 million to ‘try to dial back some of the damage done by the cuts to public education and public services and elect people who will fight for kids, families and communities,’" according to the Huffington Post report.

Weingarten is a frequent critic of corporate executive pay. In September she participated in the Ohio AFL-CIO state convention focused on inequality, despite the fact that her base salary alone is double that of the average CEO.

"We want to fight forward, to move forward for a new America that believes in mitigating income inequality," she said, urging the gathered union members to turn out for the 2014 election.

One Chicago teacher who requested anonymity to speak candidly said that she was unaware of the exorbitant salaries among union leadership. She supports teachers unions and the work they do to increase benefits. Dues money, the educator said, would be better spent serving union members, rather than union leaders.

"It is a bit shocking to realize that the head of the union is doing so well financially, especially compared to others in similar positions in government. ... Perhaps the [AFT] wealth needs to be distributed back to those that the union is representing," the teacher said. "It would appear that the union dues that people are paying for support is going more to salaries rather than building in supports for the educators."

Rick Berman, head of the watchdog site, said that Weingarten’s populist rhetoric has never lined up with her expensive tastes and lucrative wages.

"She is part of the 1 percent and yet she still complains about inequality," he said. "She says so many things that are disconnected from what she does and how she acts. She is duplicitous and two-faced more so than even most politicians."

Published under: Unions