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AFT: Where Do Your Union Dues Go?


American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said she is concerned about the effect political divisiveness has on teachers, but she leads a union that funds a web of highly partisan political organizations and advocates. AFT makes large donations to political and issue advocacy organizations that use negative attack ads to target Republicans and moderate Democrats, while promoting policies on the fringe of American political discourse.

For example, AFT gave $350,000 to America Bridge 21st Century, a group created to attack Republican candidates during elections, and $35,000 to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which donates to groups that threaten to replace moderate Democrats with far-left candidates. AFT also funds organizations like People for the American Way, which fights to end the Senate filibuster.

These political contributions were financed by members’ regular dues, not by members’ separate PAC donations.

During its 2020-2021 fiscal year, AFT collected $196.7 million in dues from school employees, a $10 million increase from last year, despite having 13,390 fewer members. AFT members pay $235 each year in union dues.

AFT spent $49 million of members’ dues on politics last year, according to the union’s own reporting. The union spent an additional $6 million on “Contributions, Gifts, and Grants,” with much of this money going to political organizations. In total, this accounted for about 27% of AFT’s spending in 2020-2021.

Only 36% of AFT’s spending went towards representational activities, the category most closely related to labor representation. Another 27% was spent on union administration, such as general overhead and benefits for individuals employed by the union.

Large salaries went to top AFT officials, including Weingarten, who was paid $449,562. Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram earned $312,680, and Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus was paid $284,972. Weingarten’s two assistants, Michael S. Powell and Michelle Ringuette, earned $248,568 and $230,079, respectively, yet Ringuette spent the majority of her time on political activities, according to AFT. In total, AFT paid $4.1 million last year to employees who engaged in political activities for the union.

AFT dues money pays for politics.

AFT members fund many political causes with their union dues. In 2020-2021, AFT spent $49 million on politics, most of which was directed to progressive causes. According to federal law, member dues can be used for a variety of political activities, such as issue advocacy, get-out-the-vote drives, election mailers, lobbying, and public marketing campaigns. This spending must be itemized and reported annually to the U.S. Department of Labor on an “LM-2” financial report.

The Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision relieves nonmembers from the obligation to pay any dues or fees to the union as a condition of public employment. However, for teachers who remain AFT members, Janus changes nothing about how union dues are spent: they are still routinely used for political purposes.

So, how were AFT dues spent on politics? In 2020-2021 AFT gave: