CF recently attended a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) rally with the goal of bringing our message directly to the teachers and families of Philadelphia. What exactly is our message? PFT leadership is failing teachers, children, and the poor.
The teachers we spoke with at the rally passionately expressed their frustration with the current situation. They have plenty of reasons to be upset.
But among them should be the fact that as a member of the PFT, they are compelled to pay approximately $800 annually to an organization that uses their dues to fund blatantly political activities, whether they agree with them or not.
Time and again, we hear that union dues cannot be used for political purposes. Yet the evidence doesn’t support the claim. By their own admission, Pennsylvania’s five largest government unions spent more than $5.5 million of their members’ dues on politics and lobbying last year. The unions report these numbers to the state government.
So what sort of union political activities have teachers funded this year? Here are just some examples:
- The PFT spent dues at the rate of $70,000 per minute on a misleading television ad blaming Governor Corbett for cutting education spending. (We have addressed this myth repeatedly.)
- The PFT sent out an email to its members explaining how important it is to elect Tom Wolf as governor.
- Another email was sent out to PFT members in September (below) urging teachers to canvass for Tom Wolf.
- The PFT’s own dues-funded website has an “Election 2014” corner urging members to help elect Tom Wolf.
- Even the PFT’s social media accounts contain advocacy on behalf of Tom Wolf.
The PFT isn’t the only teachers’ union using their members’ money for political purposes.
AFT-Pennsylvania paid for—with union dues—this mailer, repeating the “$1 billion education cut” myth, recommending Tom Wolf for governor and telling members to vote. The AFT also posted an endorsement page for Tom Wolf on their website.
The political expenditures don’t end there. The AFT national headquarters gave $500,000 to PA Families First, a left-leaning Pennsylvania Super PAC, and it has announced it will spend $20 million on politics this election cycle—the largest amount in the union’s history.
The president of the AFT, Randi Weingarten, is no stranger to the political scene. She appeared at the PFT rally last week to implore Philly educators to vote for Tom Wolf. In fact, the AFT posted this video of the PFT rally in which Weingarten yelled “This Governor is morally bankrupt and he has got to go!” as “Crush Corbett” signs were waved.
To be clear, unions have a right to engage in the political process. But they should not have the right to fund their political expenditures without their members’ consent or collect that money at taxpayers’ expense.