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What is a Ghost Employee, Anyway?

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.


‘Tis the season for ghost stories and boy do we have a haunting tale for you.

Not too long ago, there were a group of public-school teachers in the City of Brotherly Love. These teachers were remarkable in that while they were considered full-time employees, yet they never stepped foot in a classroom.

They were (insert spooky music) … “Ghost Teachers.”

And in 2014, 18 of these ghost teachers made more than $1.7 million from the School District of Philadelphia even though they worked for the local teachers union. Yup, these teachers worked for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers but drew a salary, health benefits, accrued seniority, and a pension at the expense of the school district.

In a time of overworked teachers, crowded classrooms, and funding shortages, ghost teachers are roaming the halls. Unbelievable…and yet it’s a true tale!

Philadelphia isn’t the only city to be haunted by these ghosts. New York City has ghost cops. Like this ghost who was paid $133,195 by the city last year and yet his actual full-time job was running a police union.

Yuck. These ghosts are all tricks and no treats.

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Elisabeth Kines

Elisabeth Kines is National Executive Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Elisabeth was in the publicity department at Atlantic Records in Los Angeles, CA. From there, she learned how to build organizations that would impact culture through positions in operations and business development at Universal Music Group, VEVO, and Beats Music.

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