Teachers’ Union Makes PAC Refund Process Tricky. But Don’t Get Spooked, Request it Today.

Education Minnesota—the state’s teachers’ union—has not been shy about its efforts to bolster the Democratic Party. Through campaign spending and organizational muscle, the union has “dedicated” itself to “help get out the vote” for the election this fall and ensure educators know which candidates Education Minnesota has endorsed (hint: all but one are from the same party).

The union’s PAC has directly contributed roughly $2.9 million to candidate committees, political parties, and political committees and funds through October 22. The breakdown includes:

  • All itemized candidate contributions ($50,650) went to DFL candidates
  • Out of nearly $2 million in itemized political party contributions, $1,956,000 went to the DFL party ($300 was contributed to the House Republican Campaign Committee)

There are additional PAC political expenditures that are not part of the $2.9 million because they are not direct contributions. These expenses include phone banking, mailings, and advertisements and amounted to nearly an additional $200,000 in support of DFL candidates.

The supply of campaign cash comes from union member “contributions.” Twenty-five dollars is allocated to PAC funding and automatically deducted from members’ paychecks. Should members wish to not fund the political left, they must fill out a “PAC Refund Request” form and mail it to Education Minnesota postmarked by October 31 (today). The refund steps are tricky, no pun intended, and should be carefully followed, as Educated Teachers details out here.

Not all educators will find it worthwhile to jump through the hoops required to get $25 back. Especially when they have to do so every year. Granted, it is not a lot of money, but it is a matter of principle.

And outside the reimbursable PAC contribution, dues money is spent to fuel Education Minnesota’s political agenda—and union members have no say on how their money is spent and often remain in the dark on what their money supports.

Education Minnesota’s “Political Activities and Lobbying” expenditures (as defined by Education Minnesota) increased just over $1.3 million between its 2015-2016 report and its 2016-2017 report. Spending on “Representational Activities” increased roughly $193,000.

According to the union’s most recent federal filings (its 2016-2017 LM-2 report), Education Minnesota spent $2,663,526 on “Political Activities and Lobbying.” The PAC received $725,570 for staff expenses and electoral campaign efforts; a communications firm received $924,447 for “media advertising;” Women Winning (a women’s advocacy organization focused on electing pro-choice women to public office in Minnesota) received a $5,000 annual event sponsorship. The union did not disclose what the other $1 million was spent on.

Education Minnesota members can also request a refund of the $5 contributed to the Excellence in Teaching and Learning Foundation. As Educated Teachers shared with a union supporter, Foundation money has to be refundable because you cannot force someone to contribute to a charity.

Education Minnesota should collect PAC and Foundation money separate from the union membership card. This would better respect teachers’ varying political ideologies and help clear away the spider’s web of rules the union uses to make the refund process a burden on its members.