It’s no secret the teachers’ union is a political organization using teachers’ dues to fund a decidedly leftist agenda. But the union’s political priorities are not reflective of all its member base, despite the union’s emphasis on being about “the little guy.” In essence, the teachers’ union has made it clear that the voices of its members who disagree with the union’s political preferences—or political involvement altogether—don’t matter.
Case in point: the American Federation of Teachers (a national affiliate of Education Minnesota) commissioned Hart Research in March 2020 to conduct a survey among 1,207 teacher union members about their presidential primary candidate preferences. The kicker? “The union directed that only ‘members who identify as Democrats OR who identify as independents and say they vote in Democratic primaries’ were eligible for the survey,” writes Bob Bowdon in the Washington Examiner.
Why even bother tallying presidential preferences of Republican dues-paying union members when it’s easier to inform the pollster in advance to ignore them and quickly move on to the teachers who matter?
The National Education Association’s political endorsement process was no better. According to the Associated Press, the union chose Joe Biden “following a recommendation from the organization’s political action committee board following months of surveying the organization’s 3 million members and multiple presidential candidate forums held around the country.” But transparency was lacking, Bowdon quips.
“Months of surveying,” eh? Did the NEA provide the results of those surveys to members? When were they conducted? Maybe even just tell members how many teachers were surveyed? Anything? No? All they were told is that these secret surveys were given to a political action committee board to do some secret thing with. Then, that board gave the results of its extensive strategy to another board, i.e., the big NEA board, to apply its own crafty, clandestine deliberations over and above the last board’s deliberations. Great transparency.
According to 2020 data, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association (another national affiliate of Education Minnesota) have already donated “more than $2.8 million respectively to candidates and party groups…and the support has overwhelmingly gone to Democrats,” continues Bowdon.
One could easily imagine a still very lopsided but closer to 70%/30% or 80%/20% imbalance that nevertheless preserves at least the plausible fiction of nonpartisanship. But with the AFT giving more than 99% of its donations to Democrats and the NEA nearly there at 94%, both groups’ interest in projecting even a semblance of ideological diversity has clearly flatlined.
Education Minnesota’s 2020 endorsements of political candidates and political contributions have also been almost exclusively one-sided. Which is in line with the union’s track record of supporting, with rare exceptions, Democratic or DFL candidates for elective office and political and social causes that can fairly be described as “left of center” or “progressive.”
And even if teachers’ political views do lean left, there are several races where multiple DFL candidates are running against each other. Which means teachers are forced to support the candidate the union favors, undermining their own political preferences.
What about union members who support a different candidate or political party? Or no party at all?
Government unions in general have a history of sending union member dues to support one political party and its affiliates. According to an eight-year analysis by Center for Union Facts, “99 percent of political contributions from labor unions since 2010 have gone to Democratic causes, even though almost half of union households voted Republican in 2016.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision that freed public employees from being forced to financially support a union in order to keep their job, there was hope that unions would stop taking their members for granted and focus their priorities on teachers’ professional needs. If unions lose members, they lose dues money, which they rely on to fund their agenda. And many teachers made the choice to stop the automatic transfer of their money into the union’s political cycle.
If you are a public school teacher who is tired of funding the union’s out-of-touch priorities, let the union know. Create your personalized resignation letter here and mail it to Education Minnesota during the month of September. (Sign up for Educated Teachers MN emails and we will send you a reminder!)
You can always rejoin the union, but until the union starts respecting and representing your voice, don’t let it take your money and then turn around and use it to dismiss and undermine you.