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Where do your union dues go? (2018-19)

TEACHERS UNION SPENDING IN PENNSYLVANIA, 2018-19

1. The big picture

Based on the PSEA’s own financial reporting[1], a bare 19 percent of the union’s spending went to the “representational activities” most directly related to labor representation, such as collective bargaining negotiations, handling grievances, and arbitration proceedings. About 72 percent of the PSEA’s overall spending simply went to running the union: salaries; union employee health and retirement benefits; general overhead (including expenses such as building security guards); multiple union leadership conferences; and purchase of investments and fixed assets (the last includes land, buildings, and cars).

2. Dues money pays for politics

Teachers should know that the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision in 2018 simply means that non-union educators no longer have to pay any fees to their workplace union as a condition of employment. However, for teachers who remain PSEA members, Janus changes nothing about how union dues are spent: they can still be used for political purposes.

In 2018-19, the PSEA spent over $3.9 million of your dues on “political activities and lobbying.” That’s an increase of $1 million from the previous year. You may not have known this, but your member dues can be used for a variety of “soft” political activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives, election mailers, lobbying of legislators, and public marketing campaigns. These must be itemized and reported annually to the U.S. Department of Labor on an “LM-2” financial report. (We’ve provided the latest one, released in late November 2019, below).

So where did some of your PSEA dues go on politics? Recently, the PSEA spent:

All told, the PSEA has spent almost $33 million since 2010 of teachers’ dues money on “political activities and lobbying.”  Most school districts collect this political money directly from educators’ paychecks via payroll, at taxpayer expense.

3. Who is getting your dues money?

NEA member dues, now $196 a year for full-time teachers—and which every PSEA member must pay—supported a variety of political and ideological advocacy groups and causes around the country. Contributions to political organizations totaled at least $29 million in 2018-19, according to the NEA’s financial report, but millions more to such groups were also logged as “contributions, gifts and grants.”

Here are just a few big-ticket examples of the progressive and partisan Democratic causes your NEA dues funded from September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019[2]:

4. Your dues rise every year

In 2018-19, the PSEA collected $63.7 million in dues from school employees. The union’s 2019 financial report, which covers September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019, is the first year since the Janus ruling. It therefore reflects only member dues collected, not fair share fees. (In June 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that fair share fees were illegal).

However, PSEA revenue from dues fell only $238,000 in the last year, despite losing nearly all its fee payers—6,630. Through a combination of dues increases and other revenue sources, and despite unions fretting over the course correction Janus offered, the PSEA is maintaining its coffers.

Since 2011, teachers’ dues, counting what they pay to the state and national unions, have increased 24 percent, and is now $738 for the 2019-20 school year. That figure does not count the varying dues several district locals may charge, which is often a token amount such as $30 a year.

In 2017-18, the PSEA collected nearly $64 million in dues and “agency fees” (fees charged to non-union workers) from school employees. Since 2010, teachers’ dues, counting what they pay to the state and national unions, have increased 22 percent, and is $738 for the 2019-20 school year. That figure does not count the varying dues several district locals may charge, which is often a token amount such as $30 a year[3].


[1] Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report, Pennsylvania State Education Association, U.S. Department of Labor File Number 512-989, Years 2018-2019.

[2] Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report, National Education Association, U.S. Department of Labor File Number 000-342, Years 2018-2019.

[3] This was calculated using PSEA membership application forms, and PSEA and NEA LM-2 reports by year, which state annual dues.


This analysis for 2017-18 is available here.

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