The recently retired president of the National Education Association received a huge pay raise this year even though the union he led lost more than 40,000 members.
Dennis Van Roekel, who retired this summer, was paid $541,632 during NEA’s fiscal year ending Aug. 31, a $130,000 increase from last year, driven by a gross salary hike from $306,286 to $429,509.
The union’s membership dropped from 3,003,885 last August to 2,963,121 this August.
NEA, the nation’s largest labor union, has lost 272,014 members since 2009. The membership losses have come in large part because of reforms in Wisconsin and Michigan, where new public school contracts may no longer make paying union dues a requirement for having a job.
The union paid Van Roekel $2.2 million from 2010 to 2014.
The drop in membership didn’t keep Van Roekel from being praised by union advocates in a series of videos recorded for an NEA meeting in July.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Lee Saunders called Van Roekel “a force for unity in the labor movement, and for protecting all public services—helping bring NEA, AFSCME, AFT and SEIU together in an unprecedented partnership to face our challenges.”
The NEA Representative Assembly meeting in Washington, D.C., in July was Van Roekel’s last as NEA president, and also featured remarks from U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.
“Thank you for being such a stalwart defender of collective bargaining rights for all workers—particularly public employees when they have come under fierce and unfair attack,” Perez said.
What Perez and union bosses describe as a “fierce and unfair attack” has in fact been a trend toward freeing government workers from Big Labor’s grasp.
Despite the union’s sinking membership, Van Roekel was not the only NEA leader taking home a big salary plus expenses this year. Executive Director John Stocks was paid $412,398, vice president Lily Eskelsen Garcia was paid $345,728, and secretary-treasurer Becky Pringle was paid $337,618.
NEA paid 45 officers and employees more than $200,000.
Eskelsen Garcia is now president of NEA, elected by union delegates to serve as Van Roekel’s replacement.