Delegates of the National Education Association (NEA) voted Friday to open up membership to non-teacher “public education allies” who will be eligible to donate to the union’s political action committee (PAC).
The required two-thirds majority of delegates approved the new category of membership.
The “public education allies” will not be eligible to vote or engage in the union’s governance, but will be able to donate to NEA’s PAC.
“There are 35,000 members of UTLA, but during the strike, the police stopped counting after 60,000 people were in the streets,” said United Teachers Los Angeles vice president Cecily Myart-Cruz, according to Education Week. “Now, imagine if those 30,000 folks had been community allies.”
The vote to expand NEA membership to non-teachers comes as the nation’s largest teachers’ union heard from ten Democrat 2020 presidential contenders during a forum in Houston as part of NEA’s Representative Assembly.
“We need to strengthen our teachers’ unions,” said Democrat 2020 hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA). “Make it easier to join a union and give those unions more power when they come in to negotiate.”
NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia kicked off the union’s assembly by stating, “We need a new president who will respect our democracy, who serves all the people, including the ones who don’t have a membership to Mar-a-Lago.”
“Donald Trump is pushing our beautiful, imperfect nation towards something that would break the hearts of our Founding Fathers and mothers, towards authoritarianism, towards despotism,” she added.
The vote to allow non-teacher members also comes as the NEA claims the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in the Janus case, which held forcing public workers to fund labor unions is a violation of the First Amendment, did not yield significant losses for the union.
Politico reported in May:
As Janus’ one-year anniversary approaches, a POLITICO review of 10 large public-employee unions indicates they lost a combined 309,612 fee payers in 2018. But paradoxically, all but one reported more money at the end of 2018. And collectively, the 10 unions reported a gain of 132,312 members.
“In talking to folks, my perception is that there has been good news, that membership has not been falling off dramatically,” said Sharon Block, a former Obama Labor Department official who now runs the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.
NEA Executive Director @johnstocks: “A year ago with the Janis decision some predicted the end of unions. Instead, NEA has more members than ever ‼️ You are powerful, feel your power, use your power‼️‼️” #NEARA19 #WeAreCTA #UnionStrong pic.twitter.com/vbmeBr32Fg
— Becky Zoglman (@bzogley) July 5, 2019
According to a report at Education Week in June, however, the NEA “has seen a drop in full-time equivalent members since the Supreme Court’s decision”:
For the 2017-18 budget year, the NEA recorded about 2.45 million members—a number that included the 31,000 agency-fee payers.
The membership count has not rebounded fully since then. In the union’s two-year budget released soon after the Supreme Court ruling, NEA projected a membership count of 2.26 million full-time equivalent members in the 2018-19 budget year—a single-year drop of nearly 8 percent. That number did not change in the new budget.
The report notes that one reason for the NEA membership save is the fact that union officials have insisted upon meeting with individual teachers “face-to-face to convince them to stay in (or rejoin) the union.”
“Some states, like Maryland and California, had even passed laws that require new teachers to meet with a union representative,” Education Week reported.
However, A YouGov poll released at the end of June by the Teacher Freedom Project found that 52 percent of teachers in the United States still are not aware they can leave their unions without paying a fee.
The survey found over three in four teachers (77 percent) have not even heard of the Janus case. Despite that outcome, 74 percent of teachers say union membership should be voluntary, and 84 percent agree teachers should be able to join or quit a union at any time.
Results of the poll indicate that a vast majority of teachers have not been contacted by their unions regarding the landmark Supreme Court decision. Of those teachers who participated in the survey, 82 percent said they did not think anyone from the union contacted them about the ruling.
“Union leaders may claim their members have opted to renew after the Janus decision, but that is very misleading,” said Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators, which supports the Teacher Freedom Project. “In truth most teachers still do not know their rights and aren’t aware they can reconsider their union membership. Even if they do, it is still too difficult to exercise those rights and far too many teachers are misinformed about what happens after they leave the union.”
Patrick Semmens, vice president of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation – which represented Illinois state employee Mark Janus in his landmark victory at the Supreme Court – said in a statement to Breitbart News the poll “reflects the massive disinformation campaign teacher union bosses launched to keep teachers in the dark about the actual findings of the Janus decision.”
“Teachers, like all Americans, have consistently supported the idea that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary, not coerced, yet both before and after the Supreme Court’s ruling union officials have consistently misrepresented the case in their efforts to block educators from exercising their Janus rights,” he said.