Thursday, January 26, 2017

Antonucci: The Strange Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members

I hate linking to the Campbell Brown faux journalism site The74
but Mike Antonucci is one anti-union journalist who does a degree of honest, though biased reporting. (You will rarely read a positive report on a teacher union.) His report below is loaded with some
juicy info on the AFT - Mike covers the NEA more extensively.

I did some editing to focus on the AFT - if you must go read the entire article at the - ugh - 74.

Why are numbers of AFT members pertinent? A good chunk of UFT dues goes to the AFT, which is run by Randi Weingarten in the same vein as, oh say, your average dictatorship. But also once the national attacks come on the teacher unions, especially post-Friedrichs, these numbers will be a base point.

Mike after doing research has not found what happened to the drop in 69,000 AFT members over the past year.
When I started work on the article I thought I'd be able to determine where AFT lost the members, but no affiliate reported losses of that magnitude (except for WV). I think maybe they miscounted in 2015 and corrected in 2016. But they'll never tell me.
Maybe given that we may see big drops in membership over the next few years as non-union charters and vouchers decimate public schools, they decided to adjust the numbers so the losses don't seem to come so fast?

Here are the key bullet extracts from Mike's piece with some appended Editorial Notes.
  • AFT routinely claims it has 1.6 million members.
  • AFT reached a record-high 1,613,448 members in 2015.
  • [L]ast year - 2016 - the union reported 1,544,143 members.
  • More than 600,000 working AFT members belong to merged NEA/AFT local and state affiliates. Though their dues and representation rights are split between NEA and AFT, both national unions count them as full members.
[Ed Note: So when you add up the NEA and AFT totals -- subtract 600,000].
  • Almost 41 percent of AFT’s members live and work in New York and so belong to New York State United Teachers. But NYSUT reported a 13,000-member increase in 2016.
Now you can see why NYSUT is so crucial to the Unity machine. Check out Arthur's report on the talks between Stronger Together and Unity -- Stronger Together Brings a Stop Watch to a Long Game

I'll have my own comments on the Unity/Stronger Together talks, maybe later today or tomorrow. People ask me what ST brings to the table and I say - the mere act of running against Unity is an existential threat. All dictatorships see elections as a threat even if they expect to win by 90%. I guarantee that Putin is concerned that 10% votes against him. Randi won re-election in the AFT last summer with well over 90% of the vote. And we know that does not reflect reality.
  • 357,000 AFT members are retirees, who pay no dues 
  • 330,000 AFT members are part-time employees.
    AFT’s 1.6 million members equate to a dues-paying equivalent of 854,000 full-time employed teachers.  
[Ed Note - I questioned Mike on this point since we pay dues in the UFT though not sure if any of that goes to AFT-  Also - 60,000 of the retirees are UFT. What about the nurses and home daycare workers and any other AFT members who are not teachers? And then in NYC there are over 40,000 UFT members who are not teachers per se -- social workers, paras, guidance -- functional chapters.In NYC the numbers of classroom teachers are less than 70,000 in a union of around 170,000.In the last contract around 106,000 people voted - over 90% - retirees didn't vote.In the election all UFT members could vote -- around 170,000.]

Mike replied:
AFT says, "Retiree Members are members for life and pay no dues during retirement." It's UFT alone that's charging you. NEA charges $30/year, which might help explain why they have fewer retired members than AFT even though they're twice the size.

Nurses and other certificated employees pay the teacher rate. Full-time support workers pay about two-thirds of that. Part-timers pay according to whether they work 1/2 time, 1/4 time or 1/8 time. This is all just the AFT portion. Local dues vary greatly.
Here is most of Mike's analysis:
Analysis: The Strange Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members


Teachers union membership numbers should not be a matter of interpretation. Employees or retirees sign a membership form and pay dues to the union or they do not. Adding them up and reporting the figures should be simple arithmetic. It is not.
More recent numbers are publicly available, but only for unions and affiliates subject to the provisions of the federal Landrum-Griffin Act, which governs any labor organization with at least one member who works in the private sector. For example, some nurses who work at private hospitals belong to the Pennsylvania State Education Association and NEA. Both PSEA and NEA have to file an annual membership and financial disclosure report with the U.S. Department of Labor. Conversely, the California Teachers Association has only public-sector workers as members and does not file a report.

The situation is the same for the American Federation of Teachers. Though AFT has more private-sector workers in more places than does NEA, piecing together an accurate membership picture is daunting.

To begin with, AFT routinely claims it has 1.6 million members. That number is not strictly accurate. AFT reached a record-high 1,613,448 members in 2015, but last year the union reported 1,544,143 members, according to Department of Labor filings. 
Even those numbers obscure the facts of AFT membership. More than 600,000 working AFT members belong to merged NEA/AFT local and state affiliates. Though their dues and representation rights are split between NEA and AFT, both national unions count them as full members.

Going a step further, almost 357,000 AFT members are retirees, who pay no dues. An additional 330,000 AFT members are part-time employees.

The bottom line: AFT’s 1.6 million members equate to a dues-paying equivalent of 854,000 full-time employed teachers. And we still have a mystery on our hands.

The loss of more than 69,000 members that AFT reported for 2016 is larger than its membership in California and Rhode Island combined. Where did these losses come from?

Almost 41 percent of AFT’s members live and work in New York and so belong to New York State United Teachers. But NYSUT reported a 13,000-member increase in 2016.

AFT’s next-largest state affiliate is the Florida Education Association, but it reported a 200-member increase. Next is the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which lost about 2,000 members. Next is Minnesota, which gained 370 members.

Going down the list of states, the story is the same: up a few hundred here, down a few hundred there. The only major hit was in West Virginia, where the West Virginia Support Service Personnel Association left the union last year to become independent. AFT West Virginia once had more than 15,000 members. Now it has 931.

Two other AFT state federations filed odd reports. The Texas Federation of Teachers has reported exactly 40,000 members for the past four years. AFT New Mexico claims it has zero members, down from 6,885 in 2015, which is obviously not the case.

That still leaves us with tens of thousands of missing AFT members. It’s impossible to tell from where, because not all affiliates are required to report their numbers, but it would require substantial losses in relatively small affiliates to account for the total.

Where did all those members go? If we can locate them, perhaps we can finally solve that nettlesome teacher shortage.

3 comments:

  1. Those are the members Weingarten polled when she endorsed Hillary.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Norm, just read Arthur's column and see why we've lost so many teachers. Enough is enough when you are not trusted to teach and assess your students. Who wants to stay in the profession or go into it under those circumstances?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just to clarify--I love my job, and I love going in each and every day. I complain about nonsense with leadership and administration, but you've never seen me write one bad word about the job. That said, I'm crazy in many ways, and I certainly do understand why a lot of people leave.

      Delete

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