Education Minnesota tells members the Center is a ‘group to watch’

It’s no secret public-sector unions are opposed to a favorable outcome for Mark Janus in the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME. But their dire warnings that a pro-plaintiff ruling will “threaten” public workers and “strip away freedoms” are off-base and misleading. Education Minnesota—the state’s most powerful teachers’ union—is telling its members the goal of Janus is to “take away the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions…”


The goal of Janus is to give freedom to all working people. Freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union or not.   

As I mentioned in my speech on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, the freedom to say “no” to a union is just as important as the freedom to say “yes” to one.

Education Minnesota continues, “…because unions give workers power in numbers to speak up for themselves, their families and their communities.”

Yes, workers should be given the power to speak up, but this power to speak up, to have a voice, should not be limited. Freedom is defined as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” [Emphasis added] Silencing the voices that push back against the status quo does not allow all public employees to speak up for themselves and choose what’s best for themselves and their families.

Education Minnesota is also warning its members to “watch for” “right-wing ‘think tanks’ and advocacy groups [that] will try to twist the facts about union membership, dues and political activity.” The union’s list of “groups to watch” has Center of the American Experiment listed second.

The Center of the American Experiment disguises itself as a think tank, but in reality the Minnesota organization is pushing the agenda of its right-wing, corporate donors.

The group, started in 1990, is an arm of the State Policy Network and has money from right wing charities and foundations like the Bradley Foundation and the JM Foundation. They brought in nearly $1.2 million in 2015 and nearly $2 million in 2016.

Left-leaning organizations obsess over conservative foundations and the money they give. It is misleading for Education Minnesota to list the Center’s revenue directly after naming two foundations as if they are the result of the contributions we received. As the Center’s President John Hinderaker wrote here, our key supporters are not foundations.

Actually, the Center is supported by thousands of Minnesotans who want to make their state a better place. A few of our individual donors give through individual or family foundations, but we get less than 5% of our funding from the national foundations. In 2017, we got less than .002–one-fifth of one percent–of our revenue from the [Bradley Foundation, Roe, Walton] foundations… Liberals like to pretend that the big money is on the side of conservatives, when in fact, the biggest financial players in our political system–by far–are unions.

Education Minnesota’s total cash receipts for 2016-2017 topped $60 million (the largest chunk coming from dues and agency fees, at nearly $31 million). Total disbursements amounted to $66 million, with $2.7 million spent on “political activities and lobbying.” This is up $1.3 million from 2015-2016. (Curiously, money spent on “representational activities” only increased around $193,000 from 2015-16 to 2016-17.)

Plus, there’s Education Minnesota’s PAC money. Direct contributions by the PAC to DFL candidates in 2016 totaled $74,750 compared to $1,000 given to GOP candidates. The PAC also contributed just over $873,000 to DFL political parties. GOP political parties received $1,400. Another $1 million was contributed to political committees and political funds that overwhelmingly support DFL candidates and left-wing causes.

Education Minnesota clearly has its own political agenda that it is pushing, and it is not representative of all its members. Hard-working teachers in Minnesota, and all public employees in general, deserve a voice and a choice when it comes to who or what their money supports. More freedom, not less, is what government workers can “watch for” in a post-Janus world.