Before attacking others, teachers union should first look in the mirror
In an email from The American Federation of Teachers to its members, president Randi Weingarten accuses conservatives — such as Charles and David Koch — of buying politicians.
That’s interesting, because AFT has done the same thing for years.
“The Koch brothers and the Waltons, and the politicians they’ve bought, think they can paint us as the problem, and they’re doing their best to do just that,” Weingarten wrote.
Weingarten leaves out a key point: The AFT spent $45 million on politics last year; more than four times the combined amount contributed by the Kochs and the Waltons. The National Institute on Money in State Politics charted more than 13,000 political contributions by the AFT last year, more than double the number of those she calls out for rigging elections.
“It’s just standard talking points,” Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, told Watchdog. “It’s an old union farce that they can’t compete.”
The National Education Association ranked third among all organizations contributing to federal political campaigns last year. It funneled more than $29 million to Democratic and liberal candidates. The AFT, the country’s second-largest teachers union, was seventh on the list. It handed out more than $19 million in left-leaning contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Koch Industries ranked 14th. It spent $10.8 million spent on 2014 federal campaigns.
“Unions spend plenty. If the unions want to spend money, fine. But what really bugs me is that is all goes in one direction,” Sand said. “The NEA internal polling from 2005 showed that, across the country, more teachers are right-of-center than left-of center.”
While the NEA contributes 99 percent of its political spending on Democratic candidates, 100 percent of AFT’s contributions went toward liberal campaigns.
It’s the basis for Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which is before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ten California teachers are fighting “agency shop” laws that require public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The teachers argue the CTA violates their First Amendment rights and its political spending strips away their freedom of speech if they don’t agree with the union’s politics. They believe they shouldn’t be forced to join the union and help finance its political goals.
In Pennsylvania, veteran teacher Linda Misja refuses to help finance the Pennsylvania Teachers Association’s liberal agenda. Her case is making its way through the courts, too.
Earlier this year, the AFT bristled its left-leaning members when it announced it was endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. The endorsement was met with heavy resistance from members who felt they were never polled on the decision, that the endorsement came far too early in the election cycle, and that the union was backing a candidate pushing policies with which they didn’t agree. Many teachers came out in support of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and are now unhappy with the union.
According to a National Employee Freedom poll earlier this year, more than 30 percent of union members want out. In Philadelphia, the Caucus of Working Educators, a subset of about 300 support staff, counselors and librarians within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, think the union fails to represent their interests and plan to challenge PFT’s leadership in next year’s elections.
Weingarten has taken aim at salaries earned by top CEOs, but her own $375,000 salarydwarfs what her members take home each year.
“It’s very hard to take her seriously,” Sand said, “when she complains about spending and fairness when her union is so unfair in how it spends its money and has all this money to spend.”
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