Why are union bosses bashing California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs and the other plaintiffs in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case?
In a word: money. In three words: heaps of money.
Public employee unions nationwide stand to lose tens of millions of dollars if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Friedrichs and stops CTA from taking mandatory fees from non-members.
CTA is a state chapter of the National Education Association, America’s largest labor union. NEA took mandatory fees from 94,080 non-members in 2015; annual fees for full-time teachers were $183.
Even if mandatory “agency fee payers” paid an average of just $100, NEA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters took more than $9 million from non-members who had to pay the union so they could teach. State NEA chapter fees are much higher.
If the Supreme Court decides teachers can opt out of paying NEA, union bosses will have to modify their spending to account for the loss of forced dues — and to avoid alienating members.
A win for the Friedrichs plaintiffs wouldn’t make it harder for workers to organize, join, or negotiate wages and benefits through a union, contrary to union bosses’ claims. But it would make it harder for NEA executives to justify their political spending and their own salaries.
In her first year as the union’s top officer, NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia was paid a total of $416,633. NEA secretary-treasurer Princess Moss was paid $429,851, and executive director John Stocks was paid $407,264.
The union paid 47 officers and employees more than $200,000 in fiscal 2015, paid 162 officers and employees more than $150,000 and paid 405 officers and employees more than $100,000.
NEA reported $41 million in political and lobbying expenditures in its U.S. Department of Labor filing for the 2015 fiscal year ending in August. Those expenditures included huge contributions to left-wing political action committees.
On top of $8.9 million in payments to the NEA Advocacy Fund — the union’s own super PAC — NEA bosses funneled $1.4 million to “progressive” PAC Patriot Majority USA and $1 million to Democratic Governors Association PAC America Works USA.
Progressive activist group Sixteen Thirty Fund received $450,000 from NEA, Southern Progress Action Fund got $400,000, leftist donor network Democracy Alliance got $185,000, and pension reform opposition group National Public Pension Coalition got $160,000.
NEA sent its state chapters millions to support political campaigns and poured $1.6 million into Seattle union front Class Size Counts, $750,000 into Give Arkansas a Raise, $510,000 into Hawaii-based For the Future of Our Keiki and $500,000 into Defend Oregon.
Committee to Raise Illinois’s Minimum Wage got a $250,000 boost from NEA in 2015. So did Wisconsin Voices, Illinois-based Fairness for Working Families and Missouri-based Committee in Support of Public Education.
National networks of state-based leftist advocacy groups raked in NEA money, too; the union gave $378,966 to State Voices, $355,000 to America Votes, $255,000 to ProgressNow, $75,000 to State Innovation Exchange Action Fund and $25,000 to Democracy Alliance project Committee on States.
The union gave six-figure donations to far-left media defenders of mandatory union dues, contributing $200,000 to Media Matters for America, $100,000 to Center for Media and Democracy and $100,000 to The Progressive magazine.
During fiscal 2015, NEA paid leftist consulting firms Catalist and NGP Van — which have been accused of illegal coordination with Democratic campaigns — $726,556 and $314,516, respectively.
Consistent with previous years, NEA’s political spending went beyond what the union disclosed to the Department of Labor as “Political Activities and Lobbying.”
NEA reported “Contributions, Gifts and Grants” of $422,000 to Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, $255,000 to Center for American Progress and $250,000 to Economic Policy Institute, plus dozens of five-figure and six-figure donations to other leftist groups.
“It’s not surprising that Big Labor is working to cast Friedrichs as the death knell of public sector unions,” National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation vice president Patrick Semmens told Watchdog.org.
“The Court has the opportunity to free millions of public sector employees from of compulsory unionism, meaning that union bosses will no longer have a go-to source for funding their special interest political agenda,” Semmens said.
“Perhaps if the NEA focused more on serving the teachers they claim to represent instead of funneling parts of teachers’ paychecks to left-wing political groups, then NEA bosses wouldn’t be so worried about membership and payment becoming optional and strictly voluntary,” he added.
NEA did not reply to questions about how the union’s political spending and executive compensation are decided and disclosed to members.
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