With the January 13 announcement that the multinational conglomerate General Electric will move its corporate headquarters from Connecticut to Boston’s Seaport District, the value of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s new headquarters in the same neighborhood increased, the UUA Board of Trustees learned at its meeting January 22 and 23 in Boston.
The decision by the $130 billion company to relocate to Boston’s booming “Innovation District” demonstrates that the UUA’s 2014 move to the Seaport District “was a better decision than we realized,” said Financial Advisor Larry Ladd. “The value of the physical asset went up just last week because of the GE announcement.” (One of GE’s first leases for office space is directly across the street from the UUA.)
But trustee Dorothy Holmes, attending her first in-person board meeting, asked whether the UUA is working to make the expensive neighborhood a more racially and economically diverse area. “We need to do more than simply putting up a Black Lives Matter sign” at our headquarters, she said. The Rev. Harlan Limpert, the UUA’s chief operating officer, said he would raise the issue with the UUA’s Leadership Council.
In executive session not open to the public, the board discussed the compensation packages for UUA executives. Afterwards, in open session, Rob Molla, director of human resources, reported that the UUA’s lowest-paid workers are paid well above the going market rate, receiving at least $15 an hour, with most earning much more. All employees receive generous benefits packages, he said. “It’s important for us as a justice-based organization to lift that up so we can know that we are doing something right,” Molla said.
The association’s highest-paid workers, including members of the Leadership Council, “probably earn much less than they could be commanding in the larger marketplace,” he added. About 20 percent of UUA staff nationally are persons of color, he said, and in the aggregate, there is no gender or racial disparity in pay among workers in the same general positions.
Vice Moderator Susan Weaver announced she was resigning from the board effective February 24. In executive session, the board chose a replacement for Weaver, whose term would have ended in June 2017, and will announce the person’s name at the end of February.
The board thanked the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, the UUA’s program and strategy officer and a member of the UUA’s four-person executive team, with a standing ovation for her service. Cooley announced earlier in January that she will leave her position January 31. The staff who reported to Cooley will now report to Limpert, who said Cooley’s position will not be filled before the election of a new UUA president in June 2017.
Another member of the executive team, Tim Brennan, treasurer and chief financial officer, informed the board that he will be on sabbatical for ten weeks in April, May, and June.
The board and the Leadership Council hosted a reception for the two candidates nominated by the UUA Presidential Search Committee for election as UUA President in 2017, the Rev. Alison Miller and the Rev. Sue Phillips. Miller and Phillips also met with the Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs, UUA secretary, and the Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti, chair of the UUA’s Election Campaign Practices Committee, to discuss the conduct of the campaign.
Eller-Isaacs asked the board to consider convening five regional assemblies before the June 2017 General Assembly that could offer the candidates an opportunity to present their visions for Unitarian Universalism while engaging them in the board’s reconsideration of the Global Ends of the association. The board will take up this proposal again at an upcoming meeting.
The board heard from the Re-Envisioning Covenant Task Force, which Moderator Jim Key created in October to reimagine a future in which congregations aren’t merely members of the association but relate to it and each other through covenants that would be renewed periodically. The Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, chair, told the trustees via videoconference that the task force has been actively engaged as a think tank and will next begin meeting with a wide range of stakeholders to get input. The task force’s efforts have the potential to be “transformative,” said trustee James Snell. (Read the task force’s initial report [PDF].)
The General Assembly Planning Committee informed the board that it intends to create a justice-oriented GA in New Orleans in June 2017, with more worship and service opportunities. The Planning Committee proposes suspending Actions of Immediate Witness for GA 2017, following a precedent set by a temporary bylaw change that eliminated AIWs for one year for the 2012 Justice General Assembly in Phoenix. A discussion about the format of AIWs will continue at the board’s February teleconference.
The UUA’s budget continues to break even, Brennan reported. Annual Program Fund revenue is $180,000—or 2.7 percent—less than projected, and unrestricted gifts so far are $85,000 less than projected, but these shortcomings have been offset by the contingency fund, he said. Trustees will be contacting congregations to encourage their generosity in giving to the UUA.
The Common Endowment Fund, which was created as a separate legal entity from the UUA several years ago, now has assets of $174 million. Over 400 congregations and other organizations participate with the UUA in the fund, but there are still thirty-seven congregations that have not returned necessary documentation to the UUA to move their funds to the new entity, Brennan said.
The board voted to designate all unrestricted bequests for innovative initiatives. It also set aside cash to fund major maintenance on the UUA’s Boston headquarters building at 24 Farnsworth Street, expected to cost about $3 million over the next nine years. It also voted to reduce the draw on the endowment in order to preserve the fund.
In other business:
- In continuing to monitor its own efforts toward being an antiracist, anti-oppressive, and multicultural body, the board heard reports from both the Commission on Social Witness and the Journey toward Wholeness Transformation Committee, which discussed UU support of the Black Lives Matter movement and how the board can support those efforts.
- The Audit Committee reported on ongoing efforts to monitor and mitigate potential risks to the UUA such as cybersecurity threats or allegations of professional misconduct.
The board directed the Appointments Committee to begin a Moderator Nominating Committee, and to identify the desired qualities in a UUA Moderator. Key’s term as moderator ends in June 2019.