Thanks to Tapinto‘s James McQueeny for his excellent interview with former-Automatic Data Processing CEO Josh Weston, in which Weston joined the Star-Ledger in blasting the NJEA leadership for their excessive compensation and suggesting that some of it should be clawed back. Sunlight’s research is prominently featured, and we note that the NJEA does not dispute our numbers.
Prominent Retired New Jersey CEO Calls NJEA Executive Salaries ‘Outrageous,’ Urges Clawbacks
By JAMES MCQUEENY
TRENTON, NJ — The retired, long-time head of Roseland-based Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Josh Weston, knows about facts and figures, dollars and cents.
He doesn’t like one bit what he sees going on with the leaders of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the union representing New Jersey’s public school teachers, and in his view, using teachers’ dues money to enrich themselves.
As a payroll processing and corporate Human Resources company, ADP has become one of Fortune Magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” for 14 consecutive years. Its 2019 revenues were $14.2 billion.
Weston was Chairman and CEO for 16 years before retiring two decades ago.
In an exclusive interview with TAPinto, Weston said he was “angered” by the recent disclosure of high salaries and “gold-plated” retirement benefits that the leadership of the Trenton-based NJEA took for themselves.
The powerful union, with 200,000 members, reported in their latest (2019) Internal Revenue Service 990 forms just made publicly available that:
- The top 10 leaders’ salaries totaled $7.7 million.
- The recently retired executive director, Ed Richardson, received $5.8 million between 2013 and 2018 or roughly just under $1 million dollars a year.
- Richardson, who retired in 2019, also received a pension estimated to be worth $5.5 million.
- A special pension plan was reserved for leaders.
Weston is calling upon state leaders, including Gov. Phil Murphy, the state Education Commissioner and legislators, and “the public and media’ to pressure the NJEA leadership to consider “clawbacks” to return money, and to explain the approval process.
“I think it’s absolutely terrible. These blubbers just greased their own little kitty! I’m not somebody who doesn’t like unions, either,” Weston said, though he acknowledged that ADP, which he left two decades ago, is not unionized.
He found particularly galling the separate, more lucrative pension provisions the NJEA leaders received that were far better than those provided to the dues-paying teachers.
“Even more, they over-funded their own pension plan to boot,” he said, claiming that $1.37 was set aside for every dollar owed, more than four times higher than that set aside for rank-and-file membership.
“Who’s watching this? Who’s approving this beyond themselves?” Weston asked.
The average teacher’s salary in New Jersey is about $70,000. TAPinto called a middle school teacher in Morris County who said her “basic” annual NJEA dues were $1,000, but she paid a total of $1,408.
Weston is calling for an outside review of the union’s benefits and compensation protocols, and a “fair review” of the rationale, to provide a factual financial basis “to claw back the excess.”
“I’m hoping, by speaking up, to get the message out to more people and the media, so they get mad about this too,” he said.
Weston had been previously joined in criticism by the Sunlight Policy Center, a New Jersey based not-for-profit whose stated mission is “informing New Jersey citizens of the facts behind our state’s dysfunctional status quo and advocating for policy solutions that put New Jersey back on the path to future prosperity.” They do not endorse political candidates.
A statement released by the Sunlight Policy Center noted, “If teachers knew their hard-earned salaries were making their leadership multi-millionaires, they would be outraged. This is a rigged system. Rigged to benefit the top leadership of the state’s most powerful special interest. Teachers lose, taxpayers lose, but NJEA leadership and the politicians they support win.”
The NJEA is arguably the most powerful and well-funded union in New Jersey.
The NJEA is a virtual campaign-funding Rumpelstiltskin for elected officials, mostly Democrats, which bolsters its clout. It is a prodigious provider of money to many other political action committees, as well.
Former Senate President Steve Sweeney found himself at war with the NJEA during the Christie Administration when he tried to reform their retirement compensation plans. The union spent millions of dollars trying to defeat him, and forced him to spend millions more to defend himself. While he succeeded in getting re-elected then, he failed to be re-elected last November.
TAPinto reached out to the NJEA repeatedly for comment for this story but did not receive a response by press time.
The NJEA did issue a statement recently on the topic of their union dues and executive salaries.
“Why are they talking about NJEA’s membership dues? Sunlight Policy Center is a political advocacy organization with an anti-union agenda. Their billionaire backers would love nothing more than to reduce the ranks of union membership in New Jersey, because we are the only thing standing between them and their efforts to privatize public education,” the statement said. “SPCNJ has allied themselves with the greater disinformation movement in New Jersey, providing them with talking points and materials to attack educators, spread hateful rhetoric, and undermine our public schools.”