For over a week, we’ve been examining common myths that government unions don’t want you to question. You can catch up on Myths 1-4 here. Today we look at the myth that your union local–the folks in your school district you see and work with every day–are the ones who get the benefit of your union dues.
Local union reps are dedicated people with roots in the community. If they could, they would probably use every penny of your dues money advocating for you.
Unfortunately, the NEA and AFT-PA are organized according to a “unified dues” system. That means teachers do not have the option of paying just their local union for negotiating salaries, benefits, and working conditions. If you pay one entity, you have to pay them all: local, state, and national. In fact, thanks to affiliations with state and national unions, the PSEA devotes only 19% of its expenditures on “representational activities.” The rest pads the bank accounts of the state and national union bureaucracy, where it is used for six-figure executive salaries, non-local elections, and even playing the stock market.
Even more depressing, when you look closely at the breakdown of a teacher’s dues, very little stays local. Most Pennsylvania school districts are organized by the PSEA, and many PSEA locals do not even charge a local portion of union dues–all dues money goes to the state and national affiliates. Local associations that do charge dues, such as Conewago Valley Education Association (where Americans for Fair Treatment Director Keith Williams taught), charge about $30 a year–barely 5% of total annual dues per teacher.
In other words, teachers trust their local union the most but their money is funding a distant, inefficient, bureaucracy that barely represents them.
Educators have options, though. They can choose to resign from their union, decertify the union altogether, or go “local-only“–make their union independent from the national leviathans of the NEA and AFT. Teachers in states like Michigan have done that and been happy with the much lower costs and easy functioning. In this case, going local does match the hype.