While union leadership continues to repeat the myth that union dues cannot be used for politics, the latest newsletter from the Pennsylvania State Education Assocation again reveals, in small print, that 12 percent of members’ dues will be spent on politics next year.
That should not surprise anyone, given the rest of the magazine is chock full of political ads, endorsements, and calls to action.
This is on the heels of increasing political activism out of the national teachers' unions. In case you missed it, last week the American Federation of Teachers decided to increase their union dues to bolster their political spending.
To bolster the union’s coffers for the legal and political battles to come, the AFT leadership is asking members to support a two-stage dues hike that would add $5.40 a year to their bills this year and another $6.60 in 2015.
Most of the increase would go toward the “militancy/defense fund” and state and national “solidarity funds,” which support litigation, political activism and lobbying.
The $12 increase (over two years), would mean the AFT will collect almost $19 million more each year that can be used on politics. Last year, the AFT spent more than $28 million on political activity and lobbying, while more than half its spending went to the category "other," including gifts to other advocacy organizations.
Their sister organization, the NEA, spent $44.8 million on politics last year, not including their list of gifts to other political organizations. And as the Wall Street Journal reports, the recent NEA conference was full of political debate, while eschewing union transparency.
Delegates debated whether the union's president should write a letter to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder denouncing the NFL team name's "institutional racism." They also discussed a resolution supporting reparations for "the lingering impact of slavery" and "subtle Jim Crow policies and thinking" including "unconscious bias." These items were referred to a private committee for further discussion.
Some business items approved by the delegates did pertain to teaching. Delegates signed off on drawing up a list of books, for students from pre-K to graduate school, "that have LGBTQ and gender non-conforming themes" ($6,500) and a lobbying campaign for legislation that requires "sensitive and respectful discussions of gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation" ($24,140). They also adopted a resolution to promote "clean energy" in curriculums ($10,760).
The attendees voted down some in-house items: a proposal that would require the NEA's board to provide written justification for executive officers' raises, and another that urged the NEA to "bargain in good faith" with its internal union, the Association of Field Service Employees (AFSE), thus exemplifying "the behavior we advocate for in negotiations."
As for Pennsylvania, many teachers disagree with both the PSEA and NEA's spending on politics—and the lousy job the union does telling educators about it. As teacher Steve Calabro noted last month, one obscure notice does not make for notified teachers on such a critical issue.
"How much money is the government owed from teachers who don't take this into account when filing taxes?" Calabro askked. "This information should be a separate mailer that goes out the first week of January, not smothered in the back of a summer issue of a magazine that no one reads."
While labor unions nationwide have been on the defensive for the past few decades—especially in light of pro-worker measures in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana—Pennsylvania remains a bastion of union power, according to a series of articles in the Central Penn Business Journal (CPBJ) on the "State of the Unions."
According to the Business Journal, unions are confident that they are stronger and more united than ever. And if this past budget season tells us anything, it's that unions, particularly the powerful government employee unions like the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 (the state liquor store clerks' union), have wielded their immense political influence to stop Paycheck Protection, stymie pension reform, and sink liquor privatization efforts.
Given the government unions’ power, it’s no surprise to see Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation in union membership, trailing only California, New York, and Illinois. However, union membership in the state has been in steady decline, mirroring national trends. At the same time, union membership among those in Public Administration has risen slightly between 2003 and 2013.
One CPBJ editorial (pay wall) pointed out that while the businesses interviewed have often found private-sector unions to be willing partners who have adapted to declining union power and a changing marketplace, the public-sector unions have continued to thwart necessary government reforms.
"Nobody seems to care about the citizens and businesses that foot the bill for preserving the status quo. It's about time they did," the CPBJ editorial concludes. We wholeheartedly agree!
Lawmakers may have agreed on a no-new-taxes budget, but the cost drivers behind this year’s budget shortfall and Pennsylvania’s annual budget crisis remain unchanged. Chief among those cost drivers is the state’s ailing pension system, with our pension plans more than $50 billion in debt and warnings from all three bond rating agencies.
With such a serious fiscal crisis why has nothing been done? The answer lies with public sector union CEOs who have for years denied a pension crisis, supported underfunded pensions for teachers and state workers, and lobbied against any reform.
The PSEA, for example, sent over-the-top emails to teachers saying a new pension reform proposal is “a new attack on YOUR retirement security,” and claiming it unfairly targets women, playing off absurd “war on women” demagoguery. The PSEA also sent mail to retirees claiming falsely that proposed reforms take away their pensions.
In contrast to this misinformation campaign, our pension debt is a triple threat to Pennsylvania’s future and could lead to teacher layoffs, fewer government services, and retiree pension benefit cuts.
Increases in school pension costs are equal to the salary of 33,000 teachers, which means one in three teachers could be laid off. That is the equivalent of a family of four facing a tax increase of $900 annually to just to make up the payments for pension debt.
Pension reform is about protecting state employees, taxpayers, and future teachers and state workers. As long as government unions are permitted to campaign against it using taxpayer resources, all Pennsylvanians will suffer.
Today, the House State Government Committee advanced House Bill 1507 to the floor, taking the first step towards ending the taxpayer collection of government union campaign contributions and political money. We applaud the House State Government Committee’s determination to restore fairness and accountability to a process that harms both taxpayers and public employees.
Thanks to today’s vote, teachers like Keith Williams, who testified before the committee, now have hope that their voices will no longer be co-opted by union executives who abuse taxpayer resources and teachers’ paychecks to advance their own political agendas.
A big thanks to Chairman Daryl Metcalfe and the Committee members who voted 'YEA' on paycheck protection—an important step in order for the legislation to move on for a full House vote.
Please join me in thanking those representatives who stood with the taxpayers and teachers! You can click below for their contact information, or thank them publicly via social media.
|Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chair YEA||Rep. Mark Cohen, chair NAY|
|Rep. Stephen Barrar Absent||Rep. Mary Jo Daley NAY|
|Rep. George Dunbar YEA||Rep. Marty Flynn NAY|
|Rep. Eli Evankovich YEA||Rep. Jordan Harris NAY|
|Rep. Garth Everett YEA||Rep. Daniel McNeill NAY|
|Rep. Matt Gabler YEA||Rep. Daniel Miller NAY|
|Rep. Fred Keller YEA||Rep. Michael O'Brien NAY|
|Rep. Jerry Knowles YEA||Rep. Michael Schlossberg NAY|
|Rep. Timothy Krieger YEA||Rep. Brian Sims NAY|
|Rep. David Maloney YEA||Rep. Greg Vitali NAY|
|Rep. John McGinnis YEA|
|Rep. Brad Roae YEA|
|Rep. Rick Saccone YEA|
|Rep. Justin Simmons YEA|
|Rep. Dan Truitt YEA|
Click here for a listing of links to these members' social media accounts.
Last week we highlighted a California judge who ruled that laws enforcing teacher seniority and tenure were unconstitutional and violated students’ rights to a quality education.
But here in Pennsylvania, public school union leaders still defend these laws. While legislation is moving through the state House—with bipartisan support—to implement the commonsense reform of considering teacher evaluations in furlough decisions, union lobbyists are pulling out all the stops.
The PSEA’s latest lobbying push features the scary headline “Your job security is at risk.” Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has its own lobbying effort, talking about how the bill is “anti-teacher.”
Current seniority and tenure rules hurt younger teachers, regardless of their performance, and undermine the quality of education. Yet union executives continue to cling to the status quo—despite the fact that at a recent hearing, the president of the PSEA admitted he didn’t know how teachers’ themselves felt about the issue.
Indeed, union leaders rarely ask for member input on issues, since they use taxpayer resources to collect their political money rather than collect it directly from members.
Big news out of California, where a state judge struck down that state's teacher seniority and tenure laws. The lawsuit was filed by 9 students who believed that teacher tenure rules and Last-In-First-Out policies hurt good teachers, and thus hindered their ability to get a quality education.
The court agreed!
What do teacher union CEO's have to say about this ruling? They ignore the issue, and instead point to the usual bogeymen with name calling. Here's NEA president Dennis Van Roekel:
This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education.
Pennsylvania has its own opportunity to reform antiquated seniority laws and protect excellent teachers, putting kids first. HB 1722, which would use the new teacher evaluation system rather than seniority only for furloughs and rehiring decisions, passed the House Education committee last week.
CF President Matt Brouillette, Keith Williams and Kristi Lacroix—two public school teachers—along with a host of good government and business groups testified yesterday before a House committee in favor of paycheck protection, which would end the use of taxpayer resources to collect the government unions' political money.
Here are a just a couple of excerpts from the numerous testimonies given in support of taxpayers and public employees.
First, Matt crystallized the two primary reasons why paycheck protection is needed:
Paycheck Protection is about fairness. Government should provide equal opportunity for all and favor for none. Today, Pennsylvania gives favor to one. Only the government unions enjoy the exclusive legal and financial privilege of having the taxpayers pay for the collection of union dues and campaign contributions. This is not fair. And Paycheck Protection simply requires government unions to play by the same rules as everyone else and collect their own political money. This, is fair.
Paycheck Protection is also about accountability. When unions have to collect their dues and campaign contributions directly from members, teachers and other public employees are empowered to hold their union leaders accountable for how they spend their money. When unions are able to use government resources to automatically withhold dues and campaign contributions, union members are denied the opportunity to use their “power of the purse” to hold their union leaders accountable for how they spend that money.
Keith Williams, a Pennsylvania public school teacher, testified about his opposition to using taxpayer resources for political purposes, an activity which he points out landed a number of elected officials in prison:
Again, as both a taxpayer and teacher, I’m particularly concerned about this use of taxpayer resources serving as a collection tool for political purposes. HB 1507 removes the burden from the district for unfairly utilizing taxpayer-funded payroll services for the purposes of partisan political activity. What other political lobbyists have the ability to collect millions of dollars using the same staff and resources my property taxes currently support? I can think of no other group, and the only individuals I can recall who have co-mingled taxpayer resources with their political campaigning have received prison time.
Kristi Lacroix, a former public school teacher, was also gracious enough to give her time to testify on behalf of taxpayers. After her testimony, she gave an interview to CF, explaining why paycheck protection is so critical for teachers:
Thanks to more than three hours of testimony, the rally attended by hundreds of grassroots activists, and an ad campaign informing the public of an inherently unfair system, the fight for paycheck protection is hitting on all cylinders.
Of course, there's still plenty of work to be done, which is why we need you to contact your elected officials and let them know that state government should not be in the business of collecting political money for any organization.
Last Wednesday, CF President Matt Brouillette guest hosted WHP580's Ken Matthews Show in Harrisburg. Matt spent some time talking to Keith Williams, a high school English teacher from New Oxford in rural Adams County, about teachers' unions and politics.
Keith has taught for 17 years and has never been a union member.
But recently, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) negotiated a contract with the school district that made the district an “agency shop” -- which means all those teachers who have opted to not join the union must start paying their “fair share” (which union executives determine, of course) for union representation.
For Keith, this means he has to start paying over $500 each year for something he does not want, to an organization whose politics he opposes, just to keep his job.
As Keith notes, he wouldn’t even have so much of a problem paying for local representation and if his “fair share fees” actually stayed in the community. But much of the money that we taxpayers collect for the unions are shipped off to the state and national organizations to fund their lobbying and political activity.
Meanwhile, a majority of union rank-and-file report that they almost never hear from their state or national leaders who are supposed to be “representing” them.
Later on in the show, a union member calls in to challenge Keith on some of his claims.
Check out all three hours in podcast format at WHP580.com:
Did you see the PSEA's latest Voice magazine? It features a full two-page article, claiming, among other things, that "no dues money is given to candidates." This is true as far as it goes.
But they leave out key facts. Like that union PAC money—campaign contributions that are given to candidates—is collected from workers' paychecks using taxpayer-funded resources. And that union dues are used to support partisan politics and candidates—like the 5 pages in the PSEA Voice dedicated to supporting Rob McCord.
The PSEA is required by law to tell members how much of their dues go to politics. Their June edition of the Voice told members the union estimates it will use 12 percent of their dues on politics and lobbying in 2013-14. This would represent more than $7 million this year, significantly higher than the $3.8 million they reported spending on political activity and lobbying last year.
Despite what you may have heard, teachers' dues are used for politics.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) took out full-page, color ads in several major state newspapers last week proclaiming Gov. Corbett "closed neighborhood schools" and laid off teachers in Philadelphia through massive education funding cuts. In the western part of the state the ad warns, "Don’t let Allegheny County be the next Philadelphia."
These ads were grossly misleading. State funding for public schools is at an all-time high. The $1 billion in "cuts" was the expiration of temporary federal stimulus money.
So we ran our own ad today correcting the record.
AFT claims Gov. Corbett and state lawmakers "cut $1 billion" in education spending in the state budget. But the real facts about education spending are something else entirely.
The 2013-14 budget spends nearly $10 billion and the proposed 2014-15 budget calls for $10.1 billion for PreK-12 schools—an all-time high, even exceeding when the state budget included federal stimulus funds. As you can see in the chart below, the AFT's claims are simply untrue.
But the worst part of the AFT's misleading campaign is how it was funded—by teachers' dues collected using taxpayer resources. It’s time unions are held accountable for dishonest political ads they run at the expense of educators and taxpayers across the state.
We should stop this practice which gives government unions an unfair political privilege to engage in politics.
Total Records: 132
Who are We?
The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.