Does Ohio’s school staff union really stand with workers?


By Jason Hart | Ohio Watchdog

Joe Rugola, Ohio Association of Public School Employees executive director, joined picketing Reynoldsburg City Schools teachers last week in a show of union solidarity. But do Rugola and OAPSE stand with workers where it counts?

One of the top labor officials in the state, Rugola was paid $244,227 last year. Rugola’s salary and other compensation are taken from the paychecks of public school staffers covered by OAPSE contracts.

The Columbus Dispatch reported in 2009 the average OAPSE member made $24,000. OAPSE paid Rugola $216,939 that year, according to the union’s annual report to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rugola got $243,712 in 2010, $238,109 in 2011 and $253,351 in 2012. OAPSE’s fiscal year begins Sept. 1 of the previous calendar year.

The union did not respond to a inquiry about the gap between Rugola’s pay and the 2013 salary of the average union member.

In 2013, members paid the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees affiliate dues equal to 2 percent of their wages, up to a maximum of $487. OAPSE had 30,471 members and took mandatory “agency fees” from 3,255 nonmenbers.

OAPSE, also known as AFSCME Local 4, is one of may AFSCME affiliates taking forced dues from government workers across the country. In addition to the compensation he received from OAPSE, Rugola made $17,585 as an AFSCME vice president in 2013.

Ohio Department of Education data show that during the 2012-13 school year, Ohio’s 248,481 school personnel were paid an average salary of $39,687. OAPSE employees — not the workers represented by the union, but the staff of the union itself — were paid an average of $92,008.

Ohio’s average annual wage was $43,170 in 2013, according to a DOL Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate of statewide pay across all occupations.

Average pay trends from 2008 to 2013 for AFSCME Local 4, school staffers and all Ohioans are shown in the following chart.

From 2008 to 2013, the average pay for employees of Ohio’s largest school staff union increased from $74,674 to $92,008, an increase of $17,333 or 23 percent.

During the same period, average school staffer pay increased from $37,852 to $39,687, and Ohio’s statewide average wage increased from $39,820 to $43,170 — increases of 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

In 2008, OAPSE employee pay was $36,822 higher than the average school staffer’s pay. Over the next five years, the chasm between OAPSE employees and Ohio school staffers increased to $52,321.

Average OAPSE employee pay is now more than double average school staffer pay; Rugola’s pay is more than six times the average for school staff.

The union paid 66 employees in 2008 and 61 employees in 2013. In 2008, 11 OAPSE employees were paid more than $100,000; by 2013, that number had tripled to 33.

Based on the latest available data, Rugola makes $201,057 more than the average Ohioan; the average OAPSE employee is paid $48,838 more than the average Ohioan.