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NYSUT: Where do your union dues go?

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is deeply in debt, so much so, that it had to spend a quarter of all revenue—$1 out of $4—on debt payments during the 2020-2021 school year. NYSUT has $568 million in pension and retiree healthcare liabilities as a result of not saving responsibly for its employees’ benefits. Despite its massive debt, NYSUT still spent millions of dollars on state and local politics.

NYSUT also overlooked its debt when union president Andrew Pallotta enjoyed a 4.9% salary increase, totaling $312,000. The average salary of the four union directors was $290,000, while the average teacher salary in New York is between $63,000 and $84,000. In addition to its executive officers, the union has a large, well-paid staff funded by members’ dues—the union paid its 430 employees an average salary of $127,000 last year.

NYSUT lost dues-paying members last year, with 7,595 fewer employed members. To account for the decrease in membership, the union began recruiting more retirees, bringing it’s total membership loss to 250. Retiree members pay less in dues than working members, which is one of the reasons the union brought in around $3 million less in dues last year.

About 42% of the union’s spending went to “representational activities,” the category of spending most directly related to labor representation, such as collective bargaining negotiations, handling grievances, and arbitration proceedings.

NYSUT MEMBERS’ DUES PAY FOR POLITICS

NYSUT reported spending $10 million of members’ dues on “political activities and lobbying,” but a closer examination of its financial report reveals additional spending that also appears political. According to federal law, member dues can be used for a variety of political purposes, such as lobbying, election mailers, get-out-the-vote drives, and public marketing campaigns.

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 NYSUT members, Janus changes nothing about how union dues are spent—they are still routinely used for political purposes.