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NYSUT spends big on union debts, politics

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) members may not be aware just how big a hole their union is in, but the numbers don’t lie. Last year, the union spent $1 out of every $4 collected from union members to pay down its debts, accrued by not saving enough for pensions and other benefits for the union’s employees.

Despite this dire fiscal situation, union President Andrew Pallotta still received a 5% pay increase, taking his salary up to $312,000 a year. The union also spent millions of dollars on political activity.

From an almost $200 million budget, NYSUT spent $53.5 million on benefits for union employees. The bulk of that spending went toward the union’s large pension and retiree healthcare liabilities. The union has $307 million in pension liabilities, and another $243 million in retiree healthcare liabilities.

The union has a large, well-paid staff. Its 430 employees receive an average salary of $127,000—well above the average New York teacher’s salary, which is between $63,000 and $84,000.

NYSUT reported spending over $10 million on politics during the 2020-2021 school year. The union spends its member’s dues on lobbying and electoral politics to elect union-friendly politicians and to persuade policymakers to adopt the union’s favored positions.

Besides trying to influence state and local education policy, union officials also directed money to organizations that tried to convince lawmakers to raise state taxes. NYSUT gave $250,000 to Strong Economy for All Coalition, which advocates for a variety of progressive causes at the statehouse in Albany, including environmental regulations, higher taxes, and limiting how pension funds can be invested.

The union also paid its own employees $3.3 million to engage in lobbying and politicking and spent another $2.82 million trying to influence local elections in New York.

Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates is Senior Writer and Researcher with Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Suzanne worked as a journalist for the Associated Press, as Policy Director with the Yankee Institute, as a contributor for The Hartford Courant, and as a regular commentator for WNPR’s The Wheelhouse.