Why the NEA’s ‘Congressional Report Card’ Says Less About Congress Than It Does About the State of Democratic Party Politics

February 15, 2018

Why the NEA’s ‘Congressional Report Card’ Says Less About Congress Than It Does About the State of Democratic Party Politics. Last month the National Education Association released its annual Legislative Report Card, assigning a letter grade to each member of Congress. “This year’s Legislative Report Card is the most polarized Congress of any we have evaluated in the past 13 years using our current rating system,” said Marc Egan, NEA Director of Government Relations. “This breaks the bipartisan trend we have seen in previous years, and it reflects the misguided policy priorities of the Republican leadership in Congress, who have, time and again, put partisan politics and ideology ahead of students and families.”

NEA traditionally evaluated lawmakers strictly on their voting records. A vote in support of the union’s position received a better grade. But in 2005 NEA officials decided they could boost the union’s influence among Republicans by grading them on a curve. They also added five new criteria to supplement vote-based grades, which they explain as follows:

  • Co-sponsorship of bills critical to advancing NEA’s identified legislative priorities;
  • behind- the-scenes work to advance or impede NEA priority issues;
  • committee votes in support of or against NEA priorities;
  • accessibility of the Member and staff in Washington, DC to NEA staff and leaders; and
  • accessibility and education advocacy in the Member’s home state or district.

While this did allow NEA to give Republicans higher grades, it also made the evaluations more subjective and less transparent. Co-sponsorships and committee votes are easily tracked, but accessibility and “behind-the-scenes work” are, well, behind the scenes.

In July 2016, NEA celebrated the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act by bestowing its Friend of Education award on the bill’s co-authors, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). NEA’s 2017 report card gave Sen. Alexander an “A,” even though he had voted with the union on only one of eight key votes.

In the last session of Congress, Sen. Alexander voted with NEA on one of nine key votes, but this time the union gave him an “F,” perhaps for his role in ushering the nomination of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education through the Senate.

Also in July 2016, NEA trumpeted Hillary Clinton’s selection of Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as running mate by noting he “earned an A on the National Education Association legislative report card.” The union failed to mention that every Senate Democrat had received an “A,” or that Sen. Kaine had supported the union’s position only 25% of the time.

The latest NEA report card again granted an “A” to every Senate Democrat, as well as independent Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, who caucus with the Democrats. Fifty Senate Republicans received an “F.”

The two exceptions were Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Murkowski received an “A” and Collins a “B.”

These two senators famously voted against the DeVos nomination, which explains their popularity with NEA. But they voted with NEA on only four of nine key votes.

The grade distribution in the House was similar. All 193 House Democrats received an “A” while 195 House Republicans received an “F.”

Eleven House Republicans received an “A” — ten of whom would fit in a circle with about a 200-mile radius. They include Frank Lobiondo, Chris Smith, and Leonard Lance from New Jersey; Peter King, Dan Donovan, and John Katko from New York; and Ryan Costello, Pat Meehan, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, from Florida, also received an “A.”

A look at the legislators’ voting records reveals only one, Rep. LoBiondo, voted with NEA on all seven key votes. Each of the Pennsylvania Congressmen voted against the union at least twice.

Despite NEA’s claims, its report card reflects little about Congress and a lot about how the union is welded to the Democratic Party. What is the point of “A” and “F” when all that matters are “D” and “R”?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 9-14:

* Colluding and Colliding. Vegas teachers’ union accused of colluding with powerful evil force.

* Despite All the Talk, Charter School Unions Still Mostly a Function of State Law. The easy way to organize.

* Union President Loses Her S**t Over Truthful Campaign Flier. Switch to decaf.

* The Department of Education Is Wrong. Teachers were not pulled out of school to man union’s publicity stunt.

Quote of the Week. “Despite its potential for being a powerful show of union strength, most teachers do not enjoy the gathering at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena. Walking into the Blaisdell from the free parking provided by McKinley High School, you pass a lot of people walking out, having already signed in.” — Ethan Porter, school site representative for the Hawaii State Teachers Association, describing Institute Day, a union-sponsored professional development day. HSTA’s history of the day notes the union thought the sign-in was unnecessary because “teachers were not babies and were professional enough to go to the Institute without threats.” (February 14 Honolulu Civil Beat)

‘Where Hope Goes to Die’: What It’s Like to Work For a Teachers Union — as Detailed By 13 Disgruntled Employees

February 8, 2018

‘Where Hope Goes to Die’: What It’s Like to Work For a Teachers Union — as Detailed By 13 Disgruntled Employees. Working for a teachers union can be rewarding in many ways. The perks are exceptional, and those who believe in the union’s causes find themselves paid well for doing good.

But the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have struggled with their role as employer. They are self-proclaimed defenders of working people, yet when faced with labor problems common to most employers, often resort to tactics reminiscent of the most hidebound corporations.

Glassdoor.com is a web site that allows employees and former employees to anonymously describe and rate the companies and organizations for which they have worked. An examination of the comments from current and former teacher union employees shows that most greatly appreciate the salary and benefits, but recognize that there is a price.

These comments were posted during the last three years on Glassdoor. We don’t the know the specific circumstances that led to these postings, but the themes are similar and reflect what I have heard from union staffers.

Former AFT employee:

“Offer their employees a living wage and amazing benefits. Seem to genuinely care about their staff well-being, albeit only when convenient for them.

“No accountability, no work-life balance, no real opportunity to grow in a position. There is a dwindling office culture and outlooks are bleak. People snipe one another (sic) if it means they get ahead even slightly. Not dealing with the fast-approaching reality that unions will be crushed by the far-right political contingency and upcoming legal battles.”

Advice: “Audit spending, especially in the president’s office.”

Former AFT organizer:

“The culture of the AFT is so broken that the National Reps and even their directors (your supervisors) joke around about never landing in a city without locating the first liquor store.”

Advice: “There needs to be a complete overhaul of leadership. Many of the middle and upper middle management are cruel alcoholics who couldn’t organize their way out of a bucket.”

Current AFT organizer:

“Favoritism is rampant. Office politics are sometimes terrible.

“If you have to work with a local or state affiliate in addition to your project, good luck — sometimes the resulting bureaucracy is a nightmare. You will see campaigns run into the ground and members thrown under the bus.

“Some AFT National Representatives are awful to work for. They mistreat their staff and fire them for petty reasons, or are just generally incompetent.”

Former AFT employee:

“The best work is in the field, helping members and workers gain power on the job and in the community.

“The headquarters has an often toxic culture of petty jealousies and long-simmering grievances.”

Former NEA employee:

“An excellent opportunity here to do some exciting work for a meaningful mission. I worked with some really good people there, as well. Exceptional benefits and pay that is hard to find in the progressive/non profit space.

“Management was severely lacking. There is a ridiculous pecking order there, as other reviewers have mentioned. Some managers liked to pull rank to get what they wanted, even if their expectations were unreasonable or unrealistically high. Other managers were not good at interpersonal relationships and generally knowing how to talk to people respectfully, especially their subordinates.

“Every single one of the managers need mandatory management training (and the ability to talk to people like they are adults and not children that they control).”

Current California Teachers Association employee:

“Poor leadership with micromanagement style, stressful and negative environment, several disgruntled employees who are mentally checked out counting down to retirement.”

Current Colorado Education Association employee:

“Decent benefits and free parking downtown. Terrible management. They don’t want to hear anything that goes against what they are doing.”

Former Maryland State Education Association employee:

“Good pay & benefits, in nice location (historic Annapolis, adjacent to waterfront and restaurants); decent mission and purpose.

“Internal climate undermines employee morale (first day on the job, I was told ‘be careful about speaking with those on the fifth floor’ — where elected leaders have their offices); job security drives many people to just do minimum and play it safe, spending hours online or gossiping.”

Current Maryland State Education Association employee:

“Solid employment, with most members paying mandatory dues, so no layoffs. Good salary and benefits. Management is not very smart, so only need ego appeased to keep happy.

“Have worked at state affiliated offices for over ten years and witnessed steady decline in morale, influence and concern for members. State (executive director) is so bad, lobbying staff try to keep him from interacting with legislators. Local (executive director) is so bad, staff leave for other local offices. If hardworking, burned-out members working in schools really knew about wasted time spent gossiping or browsing web — check out game playing history on server — or professional conference in Vegas, they would not be happy.”

Former Maryland State Education Association employee:

“Adversarial relationship of management towards staff is intentional. Control is the main objective.”

Former Massachusetts Teachers Association coordinator:

“Where hope goes to die. Incredibly generous pay and benefits with the complete absence of accountability. If you’re only in it for yourself, this is the place for you.

“A bricolage of otherwise unemployable misfits consumed with reacting to the mercurial behavior of self-aggrandized elected leaders who are not fit to shape the behaviors of house pets, let alone students.”

Former Michigan Education Association bargaining specialist:

“Excellent pay and benefits. More vacation time than just about any place else you can think of. Fabulous, intelligent, well-trained colleagues who are very supportive. Many training opportunities to improve skills. Ability to team with colleagues to work on projects. Flexibility in hours and ability to work from home at times. Perfect for independent, self-starters. Strong national organization with accompanying training and learning opportunities.

“Inevitably, management always forgets where it came from. The organization is strong on promoting from within, but somehow there is a magic filter than keeps management employees from applying what they preach to their own personnel. Very vindictive personnel executives. Seems to be a thrill in making staff jump through unnecessary hoops, especially with regard to training. Terrible work/life balance as the hours are excessive and staff are stretched to the limit. Very stressful work, but also challenging and rewarding at times.”

Advice: “Conduct exit interviews so you don’t have to read this stuff on the internet.”

Current North Carolina Association of Educators employee:

“Management treats employees with total disrespect. The only thing management is good for is taking credit for the work others do. And copy and paste emails. All while making 6 figures!”

It’s likely that working conditions at teacher unions are not as bad as they are depicted here, nor as good as the unions would like you to think. One would hope, however, that these reviews would cause unions to clean up their own messes before giving others house-cleaning tips.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 2-7:

What Are California’s Public Sector Unions Up To? My new column for LA School Report.

Not Everyone’s Thrilled With Chicago Teachers Union Merger. Every labor activist’s model of modern unionism has its problems.

Quote of the Week. “At a broad national level, statistics tell us there is no teacher shortage. In fact, the number of U.S. teachers has grown by 13 percent in four years, far outpacing the 2 percent rise in student enrollment during the same period.” — Debra Viadero, reporter. (January 23 Education Week)

As Union Membership Drops Among Teachers, Will Weaker States Survive Janus?

February 1, 2018

As Union Membership Drops Among Teachers, Will Weaker States Survive Janus? Union membership rates increased modestly across the entire U.S. economy in 2017, despite lagging numbers in the area where union market share is largest — the local government sector. A deeper dive into figures provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that teacher unions had a particularly bad year, losing two full percentage points in their share of America’s teaching force.

Unionization rates by job category are available on unionstats.com, a database compiled by economists Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson. Although the numbers merge public and private-sector teachers, they still provide a valuable overall look at the success of union recruitment efforts relative to the number of potential members.

Last year 44.9 percent of U.S. elementary and middle school teachers were union members, down from 46.9 percent in 2016. Secondary school teachers belonged to a union at a 50.2 percent rate, down from 52.3 percent, and special education teachers were union members at a 51 percent rate, down from 53.9 percent.

These rates also provide a much-needed perspective to the debate over agency fees and the Janus v. AFSCME case, which will be heard by the Supreme Court in late February. Even under current law it is less than a 50-50 proposition that a teacher belongs to a union. Perhaps we ought to pay more attention to what non-members think and say about education, since they are the majority.

Hirsch and Macpherson also break down public sector unionization by state. I culled membership rates from their tables, and noted the change from 2016 to 2017.

The government workforce is more than 50 percent unionized in only 10 states. All are agency-fee states. Of course, many job categories —most management positions, for example — cannot be unionized, which makes 100 percent unionization unachievable. Unions themselves offer the best benchmark for how high rates can reach: 73.8 percent of their employees were unionized in 2017.

If agency fees were to be abolished, membership rates in the 22 agency-fee states would fall dramatically over time. The open question is how large of a trickle-down effect will occur in the other 28 states. Will they carry on as usual or will they suffer from reduced financial and organizing support from their parent unions? The future health of the national public-sector labor movement may depend on whether it can avoid being divided into camps of haves and have-nots.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 25-31:

Teacher Union Plans to Take Dues Even If You Stop Being a Teacher. Member for life, and maybe after.

Who’s Most Worried About Janus? NEA Employees. Staff union says NEA’s membership reports “can be easily manipulated.”

NEA’s Presidential Endorsement Process May Get an Overhaul. No more inside jobs.

* Explained: The Unexplained Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members. Fee-payers aren’t members, unless you want them to make your membership numbers look bigger.

* Montana Union Merger Approved. Four of every five Montana government employees will belong to one union.

Quote of the Week. “It’s not obvious that a union would be better off negotiating only on behalf of its members. Because they would be setting up the possibility that the non-members could get paid more than the union members, which would obviously prompt some members to resign their membership.” — Catherine Fisk, University of California Berkeley law professor. (January 18 ThinkProgress)

Union Membership Posts Modest Increase Despite Decline Among Local Government Workers

January 24, 2017

Union Membership Posts Modest Increase Despite Decline Among Local Government Workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership last Friday, and for a change there was hopeful news for organized labor. Although BLS reported the overall unionization rate unchanged at 10.7 percent of the U.S. workforce, the raw numbers show the rate increased from 10.69 percent to almost 10.75 percent.

The unionized share of the workforce also increased in both the private and public sectors, a heartening trend given that the labor movement has been sustained for decades by its more than one-third share of government employees — while private sector membership fell to 6.5 percent.

“In the face of a challenging year, the power of working people is on the rise,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

Alas, the encouraging numbers did not extend to local government employees, who are by far the most highly unionized segment of the economy. This category includes police officers, firefighters, and public school teachers. The overall unionization rate for these workers fell from 40.3 percent to 40.1 percent.

The initial BLS release does not further disaggregate by job title, though I expect those numbers will be available soon. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten seemed to indicate that her union bucked the trend, fueled by the addition of “40,000 educators in Puerto Rico.”

Weingarten’s numbers assume every eligible education employee in Puerto Rico will become a union member — a claim she can make only because AFT has a rather odd arrangement with the local union, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico. According to the agreement, AMPR pays AFT $1 per member per month — about one-twentieth of the normal rate — and none of it is taken from teacher paychecks. The local union pays out of its own pocket.

Puerto Rico aside, AFT’s membership accounting has some anomalies, including an unexplained disappearance of 69,000 members in 2016.

Projecting future trends from the BLS numbers would be a mistake. If, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court puts an end to agency fees this spring in the Janus v. AFSCME case, the effect on public sector union membership would be immediate. But I think many are overstating how drastic the changes will be, in the short term, for the labor movement.

For one thing, Janus does not affect private sector unions, and that is where most of the current union membership growth resides. Second, while unions will have to get employees to sign up in order to receive any money from them, they can’t be counted on to inform those employees that they have the right not to sign up. It may take years before many government workers are even aware they don’t have to pay.

Finally, unions have made it clear they have no intention of giving up exclusive bargaining privileges. As long as they maintain their status as the sole negotiator of employee salaries, benefits, and working conditions, they will continue to hold a certain level of power in policymaking. And just because a teacher or support employee isn’t a union member, that doesn’t mean he or she can’t be motivated to make common cause with unions on campaigns and legislation.

Those on both the left and the right predicting an utter collapse of unions once Janus is decided are in for a nasty shock. Union membership rates have been falling steadily for 40 years, and who’s to say they are less powerful now?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 18-23:

Clark County Union Dispute Goes to Trial. Motions to dismiss dismissed.

* Tagline Corroboration. Rich redefined.

* What We Need Is An Even BIGGER Hammer. After much deliberation, unions come up with a campaign strategy for 2018.

* Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing. When you’re paying the union that much in dues, you might as well have them write your tweets for you.

Quote of the Week. “Look, I don’t want to say the teachers unions are doomed at the Supreme Court in the Janus case before it’s even been argued. And it’s a complicated case and the justices could come down in a variety of ways in. And the Supreme Court sometimes surprises. But…the AFT filed their amicus brief in the case last week, and, well, they cite Valerie Strauss’ reporting in support of their argument. So, yeah, they are probably doomed.” — Andrew Rotherham. (January 22 Eduwonk)

The ‘One Percent’ Leaders of America’s Top Teachers Unions, All Making More Than $300,000 a Year

January 11, 2017

The ‘One Percent’ Leaders of America’s Top Teachers Unions, All Making More Than $300,000 a Year.

“It’s not fair that we have to live paycheck to paycheck.” – Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president, annual salary $472,197

Income inequality is a contentious policy issue and labor unions are at the forefront of the debate, professing themselves champions of the working class against the predations of the one-percenters.

But doing good also helps the top officers of those unions to do very well — so much so that they themselves have entered into the realm of the ultra-wealthy.

The financial analysts at DQYDJ.com specialize in examining personal income and net worth. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, they determined that for an individual to reside in the top 1% of pre-tax income he or she needed to have earned $300,800 in 2016.

I reviewed 2016 salary information in U.S. Department of Labor financial disclosure reports for both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, taking care to include only gross wages and taxable allowances in my computations.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García ($317,826) and Executive Director John Stocks ($355,721) easily cleared the threshold, as did AFT President Randi Weingarten ($472,197), Secretary-Treasurer Loretta Johnson ($359,584), and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker ($325,314).

I was also able to comprehensively examine the wages of NEA’s workforce as a whole, because the union noted which of its employees were temps, and not full-time workers.

Along with Eskelsen García and Stocks, another 18 NEA employees belong to the top two percent of U.S. wage earners. An additional 104 fall into the top 5%.

All told, NEA’s payroll for 2016 was just over $68.6 million for 555 employees – an average of $123,613 per worker. That average worker fits into the top 8% percent of U.S. wage earners. By comparison, the average 2016 teacher salary of $58,353 placed that individual in the top 30%.

While NEA’s cash compensation is generous, its pension and benefit package is even more so.

Of course there are people whose annual incomes dwarf those of teacher union officers, and some of them advocate education policies contrary to those of NEA and AFT. But the unions have fallen prey to the all-too-common definition of the rich as “anyone who makes more money than I do.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 2-10:

Bennies. Increasingly, that’s where your education dollar is going.

* New Front Opened in Clark County Battle. Separatists vs. loyalists at the ballot box.

* State Ballot Measure Campaigns NEA Funded in 2016-17. Massachusetts and Georgia got the most.

* Hell Freezes Over. “It is not accurate to say Pennsylvania currently has a teacher shortage.”

* It’s a Brand New Year, But the Same Old Story. How can there be hundreds of newspaper stories about teacher shortages without one comparing the number of teachers to previous years?

* After Christmas Truce, Nevada Union Dispute Resumes. Pets no longer insured.

Hardball Is a Game Two Can Play. Supervise-to-rule.

Quote of the Week. “When might it make sense to cede exclusive representation? Can we win something like the Florida model—bargaining exclusivity without the obligation to represent non-members in grievances—in some states?” — Steve Downs, former officer of the Transport Workers Union Local 100. (January 4 Labor Notes)

The 10 Most Memorable Teachers Union Quotes of 2017

December 20, 2017

Teachers union officers and activists had a lot to say in 2017, and others had a lot to say about them. Here are the 10 most memorable teacher union quotes of 2017, in countdown order:

10. “And if they vote, they will lose — they will get slaughtered. It’s not democracy to let them vote. What would be democratic is to let them build their union.” — Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations, commenting on the American Federation of Teachers’s decision to cancel a representation vote at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. (April 3, The American Prospect)

9. “As long as the teachers union hates him, I’ll support him for governor.”— Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles, speaking of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who once worked for the teachers union but has since gotten on its bad side. (Feb. 17, Los Angeles Times)

8. “[UFT’s ruling Unity Caucus] will come out and call anyone pushing a fragmentation drive real nasty names long before it ever got to the stage where there is a new union. I would expect they would say anyone signing or spreading a petition to make a separate bargaining unit was Hitler, Mussolini, the devil, and maybe Stalin all rolled into one.” — James Eterno, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, curbing any enthusiasm for the idea of splitting off a high school teachers union from UFT. (Oct. 5, ICEUFT Blog)

7. “Obviously, these charges are based on lies, and they’re using it as a negotiating tool because we’re in bargaining. That is a tactic that unions can use. I personally find it without honor, dishonorable, to use that kind of tactic. But they are within their rights to do that.” — Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association in Florida, describing unfair labor practice complaints filed by the union’s own employees against him. (Aug. 18, Tampa Bay Times)

6. “I assure you, in a relatively short period of time, there will be an uprising that will in fact fuel a more progressive future. That’s what’s going to happen. When it happens, we need to have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of it.” — John Stocks, executive director of the National Education Association, during a Sept. 21 speech at the Hayden Lakes Country Club in Idaho.

5. “Be prepared to lose 30-40% of your membership base. I don’t believe it will go that high in CTA, but we need to be prepared.” — Joe Nuñez, executive director of the California Teachers Association, predicting the consequences if agency fees are eliminated, in a Jan. 29 speech to the union’s State Council.

4. “We know why parents sometimes embrace these voucher schemes. They move their kids to these programs because they want smaller class size, safer environments and less and more sensible testing. That’s exactly what we want for public schools.” — Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, after the state Supreme Court rejected the union’s appeal against Florida’s tuition tax credit program. (Jan. 18, Miami Herald)

3. “As Secretary of Education, would you carry your intent to destroy Detroit Public Schools to all public schools?” One of the American Federation of Teachers’s #Questions4Betsy during Betsy DeVos’s Jan. 17 confirmation hearing.

2. “As England was preparing for invasion during WWII, Winston Churchill said, ‘We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’ And it is in that vein that we will prepare for the fights to come. …We will fight this battle and, if we persist, our enemies won’t land on our shores. Rather, like England, it will be us who storms across the channel to fight on their turf.” — Martin Messner, secretary-treasurer of New York State United Teachers, comparing the union’s fight to keep agency fees to the Battle of Britain in an April 7 speech to the NYSUT Representative Assembly. Messner resigned his position in November.

1. “The people of Van Wert are proud of their public schools. They’ve invested in pre-K and project-based learning. They have a nationally recognized robotics team and a community school program that helps at-risk kids graduate. Ninety-six percent of students in the district graduate from high school. This community understands that Title I is not simply a budget line but a lifeline. Why I am telling you about this town? Because these are the schools I wanted Betsy DeVos to see — public schools in the heart of the heart of America…. Make no mistake. This use of privatization coupled with disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation. We are in the same fight, against the same forces that are keeping the same children from getting the public education they need and deserve.” — Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president, speaking at the July 20 AFT TEACH conference in Washington DC. Of 2,037 students in the Van Wert public schools, just 21 are African-American.

The National Education Association Assails Corporations While Making Money From Them

December 13, 2017

The National Education Association Assails Corporations While Making Money From Them. “For decades, corporate CEOs and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocketbooks of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country.” — Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association

This year the National Education Association took in more than $370 million in dues and agency fees, upon which it paid no taxes. Analysts, including myself, devote time and energy to ascertain where NEA spends its money. But the union routinely collects more than it spends. What does it do with the rest?

The NEA currently holds $108.5 million in investments. Its public disclosure reports require it to itemize only those investments that exceed 5 percent of the total in two categories: marketable securities and “other investments.” NEA has almost $73 million in “other investments,” no single one of which exceeds $3.65 million, so NEA is not required to itemize those transactions. Where that money goes is anyone’s guess.

However, we do know where almost all of NEA’s $35.7 million in marketable securities are invested. The marketable securities consist of various types of mutual funds — some that invest in bonds, some in stocks, and some that are indexed to exchanges. Here they are (rounded off):

Eaton Vance Atlanta Capital Small- to Mid-Cap Fund — $1.8 million

Federated Strategic Value Dividend Fund — $2.8 million

iShares Russell 1000 Growth Exchange-Traded Fund — $3.3 million

Loomis Sayles Bond Fund — $5 million

SPDR Standard & Poor’s Dividend Exchange-Traded Fund — $2.8 million

Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund — $5 million

Vanguard Growth Index Fund — $3.3 million

Vanguard Institutional Index Fund — $2.2 million

Western Asset Core Plus Bond Fund — $5 million

The bond funds spread their investments among all sectors of the bond market: U.S. Treasury bonds, mortgage-backed securities, and other government and corporate bonds.

The dividend and stock funds invest in many major U.S. corporations: AT&T, Verizon, Target, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Comcast, Coca-Cola, Philip Morris, Microsoft, Boeing, JP Morgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, and Aramark. In fact, NEA invests in 9 of the 10 richest corporations in the United States.

The fund management firms themselves are enormously wealthy enterprises. BlackRock, which manages the iShares fund, handles almost $6 trillion in assets. Vanguard manages $4.2 trillion; State Street Global Advisors, almost $3 trillion.

Is Eskelsen García right? Have the people who handle all this money and run large corporations “fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocketbooks of working people?” They certainly lobby the government and seek to elect friendly politicians. But they are ecumenical about it.

I haven’t added up all the contributions in this OpenSecrets list of the top individual political contributors in the 2016 cycle, but the eyeball test suggests that for every big-ticket Republican donor there is a big-ticket Democratic donor. I suppose it’s possible that NEA executive director John Stocks hates having billionaire hedge fund managers Thomas Steyer and Jonathan Soros in the Democracy Alliance — the network of wealthy progressive political donors — but I doubt it.

Railing against the rich is a popular pastime among teachers unions. Union activists use corporate products like computers, cell phones, and social media to remind us every day how awful corporations are. It works because union members are working class. But it also serves to disguise the fact that labor unions and their officers and staff have more in common with those corporations and their employees than the unions would like to let on.

Union Report will have more on that in a future column.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 8-12:

* A Question Rarely Asked. How many teachers do we need?

Indiana State Teachers Association on Track to Fiscal Solvency… by 2027. Still on the hook to NEA for $10.5 million.

Quote of the Week. “Medical providers are now so familiar with problems with non-payment by the Teachers Health Trust that they are simply refusing service to patients. That’s an urgent crisis.” — Matthew Callister, attorney in class-action lawsuit against the Teachers Health Trust in Clark County, Nevada. (December 12 Las Vegas Review-Journal)