Union Profiles


American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

The smaller of the two national education unions, though no less contentious, the American Federation of Teachers is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.


National Education Association (NEA)

The National Education Association is the largest union in the U.S. and one of the most powerful political forces in the nation.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

National Headquarters
555 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

The smaller of two national education unions, though no less contentious, the AFT is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Like its AFL-CIO brothers, the AFT indulges in the language of conflict. Among its bank accounts are a "solidarity fund" and a "militancy/defense fund" -- the union's single largest war chest, with more than $31 million in the bank at last count.

The AFT's militant behavior is best illustrated by its association with one group in particular: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). In 2004, the union spent $100,000 of its members' money on a minimum wage ballot campaign in Florida. That campaign, designed to increase voter turnout for the Democratic presidential candidate, was run by ACORN, which has been tied to voter fraud in at least 10 states. Undaunted by the fraud that beset that campaign, the AFT's New York state federation paid the radical group more than $125,000 to organize teachers.

The AFT isn''t afraid to flex its financial muscle in the policy realm, either. In its fiscal year 2005, the union spent $7.7 million on government relations (influencing their own employers) and almost $5.5 million on public affairs (indirectly influencing their own employers).

And while there are countless AFT members who don't like the causes the union supports, there is no one who condones the fraud seen by local AFT unions. One of the most egregious examples of union staff taking advantage of their members comes from the AFT's Washington, DC affiliate, which lost $5 million to embezzlement.

The union's 2007 financial filings with the Department of Labor show that it gave members' money to the following left-leaning organizations:

The union's filings also reveal contributions to the following state-level ballot initiatives:

National Education Association (NEA)

National Headquarters
1201 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

The National Education Association is the largest union in the U.S. and one of the most powerful political forces in the nation.

The NEA largely escapes public notice as a union, but its attitude should be a front-burner concern for parents. The NEA's Oregon affiliate has stated that "[t]he major purpose of our association is not the education of children, rather it is, or ought to be the extension and/or preservation of our members' rights."

Like almost all unions, the NEA vigorously fights competition. The organization challenges any hint of education reform that would increase teacher accountability or allow for charter schools or other forms of school choice. In 1993, Forbes reported:

[L]ast year the NEA-affiliated California Teachers Association used unprecedented tactics to disrupt the effort to place a school initiative on the ballot - including blocking would-be signators' access to the petition in shopping malls, allegedly sabotaging the petition with fake names and offering a signature-collecting firm $400,000 to decline the account.

And the NEA isn't afraid to align itself with disreputable organizations to achieve its goal of killing reform. It gave a large grant to a group called the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which has been tied to voter fraud in a dozen states, government-grant fraud, and even union-busting. The purpose of the money was simply listed as "NCLB" -- No Child Left Behind, the legislative bane of the union's existence.

That the NEA would give money to ACORN -- and nearly $250,000 of its members' money to a 2004 political campaign in Florida run by ACORN and beset by allegations of voter fraud -- begins to make sense in light of the groups' shared radical philosophy. Both organizations were profoundly influenced by Rules for Radicals author and self-avowed Marxist Saul Alinsky, whose teachings advocated that education union organizers not let teachers "fraternize with the enemy" because "distance helps you polarize the issue." The "singleness of purpose" a union organizer must have, wrote Alinsky, is "the ability to build a power base."

Author Peter Brimelow has gone so far as to allege that "[t]he entire raison d'etre of the National Education Association is political. It's engaged in what economists call rent-seeking -- using political and institutional power to extract money from society." The NEA reported spending $25 million on political activities in its fiscal year 2005. But financial disclosures don't show the full extent of the power of the union, which also boasts an army of paid political operatives that is bigger than the staff of the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined.

There is no doubt where the union's political allegiances lie, even if they don't correspond to their members' political beliefs. Between 1990 and 2008, ninety-three percent of donations made by National Education Association political action committees and individual officers went to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But the NEA admits that only 45 percent of public school teachers are Democrats.

In its fiscal year 2007, the NEA spent $80.5 million more than 20 percent of its entire budget on "contributions, gifts and grants" that largely funded left-wing and non-education-related causes, including drives to raise the minimum wage and campaigns to kill Social Security reform. As a Wall Street Journal editorial noted, the union's financial disclosure forms "expose the union as a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students." Left-leaning recipients of teachers' forced dues include the following organizations:

The NEA also poured teachers' money in the following state-level ballot initiatives: