A Day in the Life of a Union Dollar

Contact: Gina Diorio, 862-703-6670, [email protected]

A Day in the Life of a Union Dollar

Does Most PSEA Spending Support Teachers? Think Again.  

September 3, 2015, Harrisburg, Pa.—James Williams teaches science in the West Middlesex Area School District in Mercer County, where school began on Monday, but he doesn’t belong to the teachers’ union. James recently exited the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, fed up with how the PSEA was using his dues.

“The union has an agenda, which I vehemently oppose,” he recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “They’ve consistently not done what I think they should be doing.”

What does James mean? Doesn’t union spending primarily support teachers professionally?  Not quite.

In fact, a day in the life of a union dollar looks more like this:

  • 36 cents of every dues dollar goes to political, ideological, and other related activities not associated with the union’s direct representation of workers. In 2013-14, the PSEA spent $3.6 million on “political activities and lobbying.”
  • Almost 45 cents goes to running the union—things like employee salaries and benefits, office rent and other overhead expenses, and leadership conferences.
  • Just 17 cents funds “representational activities,” like collective bargaining and arbitration proceedings.

“When teachers see how the PSEA is spending their money, it’s no surprise many are deeply concerned with continuing to watch dues dollars automatically deducted from their paychecks,” stated Brittney Parker, project director for Free to Teach (FTT), a project of the Commonwealth Foundation that equips teachers with facts regarding union membership and tools to stand up for their rights.

Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

In more than 70 percent of Pennsylvania school districts, teachers like James must either join the union or pay a “fair share” fee as a condition of keeping their jobs. This means money is automatically deducted from their paychecks—like a tax—just because they choose to teach.

“Teachers shouldn’t be penalized with a union ‘tax’ simply because they choose a career in the classroom,” Parker continued. “If unions want to politick, they should collect their money through voluntary contributions, not coerced deductions. Every day, our teachers give 100 percent of themselves to their students. It’s unacceptable that the union charged with supporting teachers gives them back just 17 percent.”

FreetoTeach.org is an online community and resource center that equips and empowers Pennsylvania teachers hungry for information about public education and the teaching profession. Free to Teach covers topics that affect teachers’ professional lives, like public pensions, performance pay, seniority, school spending, and labor rights.

Brittney Parker is available for comment today. Contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.