Teachers unions showing ‘sharp decrease’ in membership

[Editor's note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Policy.]

By Lauren Bowen
Real Clear Policy

Noting this year’s fourth anniversary of Janus v. AFSCME — the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27, 2018, ruling that banned mandatory union membership, dues and fees for government employees — Washington Post columnist Charles Lane recently dismissed the decision as a nothing burger.

Lane wrote:

"(I)n the four years since Janus v. AFSCME, a landmark 2018 decision affecting the financing of public-sector unions, the ruling’s actual impact — to the extent it’s detectable at all — has validated neither the hopes of those who welcomed it nor the fears of those who did not. To the contrary, new research suggests the pre-Janus status quo remains remarkably unchanged."

It’s a line the public sector unions have been peddling for years.

On the ruling’s second anniversary in 2020, in fact, American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) President Randi Weingarten boasted, “What was intended by the people who brought this case was to defund us. Not simply erode the fee-payers but to try and erode membership. But that hasn’t happened.”

But things are changing.

An analysis of the 2020-2021 school year, for example, showed a sharp decrease in membership for teachers’ unions across the country, including Ohio.

In the study, the Ohio affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) suffered a decrease of 1.5 percent of its members, while the Ohio Federation of Teachers lost a whopping 7.5 percent. And nationally, both the National Education Association (NEA) and Weingarten’s AFT saw a 2 percent drop in their membership — the equivalent of losing the entire working membership of union affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia combined in a single year.

What could possibly make teachers across the country want to leave their unions in droves?

Could it be because during the 2019-2020 school year, the Ohio Education Association brought in $56,222,200 in union dues, but only spent $15,148,369 on representational activities? How else did the OEA spend its members’ hard-earned dollars?

Well, OEA spent $3,132,614 on political activities and lobbying and $1,614,734 in contributions, gifts and grants.

OEA also paid its executive director Sheryl Mathis more than $200,000, president Scott Dimauro more than $195,000, vice-president Jeffrey Wensing more than $93,000, and treasurer Mark Hill more than $169,000.

If that isn’t bad enough, the Ohio Education Association sends money to the parent National Education Association, which for the same year paid its president Rebecca Pringle more than $426,000.

Teachers’ union leaders are very generous to themselves with the dollars they take from teachers’ paychecks.

As more and more teachers learn they have a right not to fund labor leaders’ lavish lifestyles, especially when gas and groceries become increasingly expensive, they begin doing the math on how stopping union dues deductions could alleviate some of these financial burdens.

The problem is that most teachers are not even aware of their rights under Janus, and that’s because the teachers’ union officials do not want them to be educated about their options.

Government employee unions responded to Janus by adopting a variety of still-being-litigated defensive strategies, including:

  • only processing membership cancellations during annual escape periods as short as a few days;
  • ignoring or outright challenging each request, forcing individuals to fight the union’s well-financed legal team in court;
  • subjecting union defectors to workplace harassment; and,
  • when all else fails, simply forging the worker’s signature on membership documents.

On top of that, and for all their anti-bullying campaigns, teachers’ unions are among the biggest bullies in the country. Union representatives tell their members if they leave the union, they have no alternative for liability insurance and they’ll lose their benefits.

This simply isn’t true, and that’s why the Freedom Foundation launched a national outreach campaign to educate the educators about their alternatives to union membership.

It’s a message that’s gaining traction and making union executives take notice.

Lauren Bowen is the Ohio State Director of the Freedom Foundation.

[Editor's note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Policy.]

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