Yes, teacher union dues fund politics

Minnesota educators who are members of Education Minnesota pay hundreds of dollars every year in dues to the state teachers’ union and its national affiliates.

Very little of those dues remain with the local union — where the collective bargaining is handled. Most of the dollars get sent up the chain to the state and national teachers’ unions where they underwrite areas such as administrative costs and political agendas and organizations.

To identify how dues are spent, the best public source is through an LM-2, which is a federal report that unions file annually with the U.S. Department of Labor. But these reports are often difficult to interpret, which leaves teachers not knowing exactly how their hard-earned money is spent or erroneously believing that their dues aren’t used for political purposes.

According to Education Minnesota’s 2019-2020 LM-2 report (the most recent available), the teachers’ union spent over $1.2 million on what it self-identified as “Political Activities and Lobbying.” Dues dollars go toward this spending.

In addition, $25 of teachers’ dues gets sent to Education Minnesota’s PAC — unless teachers annually request a refund for this contribution — where those dollars are used to directly support political candidates and one party. For example, in 2020 Education Minnesota’s PAC spent nearly $4 million on expenditures (local election assistance, ads and mailers in support of political candidates, etc.) and disbursements to mostly DFL candidates, the DFL Party, and DFL political committees and political funds. In fact, Education Minnesota’s PAC has been a leading contributor to one political party for years, despite this political ideology not being reflective of all its members.

As previously mentioned, dues dollars also go to the national teachers’ unions — the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — where they too get spent on political objectives. For example, this past summer at the NEA’s annual meeting, delegates approved a new business item that publicly embraced Critical Race Theory (CRT) and will move forward with promoting its use in all K-12 public schools across the country, with an expected cost of an additional $127,600. Other new business items passed were also laced with political priorities that will be paid for through dues. (As a comparison, the NEA spent just $0.05 of every $1.00 on what it self-identified as “representational activities” in 2020.)

So, yes, teachers’ union dues do get spent on politics — both directly and indirectly.

If you are a Minnesota educator who is a current member of Education Minnesota, you have an opportunity to let the union know its prioritization of politics and controversial policies is doing a disservice to you and the students you serve. By opting out of union membership, the union can no longer take you or your hard-earned money for granted to advance its political agenda. You can always rejoin but only have until Sept. 30 to make your decision before your membership is locked in for another year.

Remember, non-union members do not lose any health insurance benefits, their tenure, seniority or their pensions — these are provided by your employer the school district, not the union. There are also liability coverage options that are free from partisan politics and offer double the protection the union provides for a fraction of the cost of dues.

Questions or looking for more information? Contact Educated Teachers MN at [email protected].