NJTV News is New Jersey’s public broadcasting news show, partially underwritten by the New Jersey Education Association, so it was particularly gratifying to read its story “NJEA spent $5.7M in union dues on recent election.”
Reporter Leah Mishkin discovered that activists attending the NJEA convention in Atlantic City were utterly, but mistakenly, convinced that the union had spent no dues money on the 2017 state legislative and gubernatorial campaigns.
“Those millions of dollars are voluntary donations by members, called PAC donations. So, it’s not like it’s money that comes out of dues dollars. So I’m perfectly fine,” said NJEA member Robert Scardino.
“Too many people just don’t understand the PAC system. All the money that went to support our candidates along the way, we were very foolish not to publicize the fact that it was PAC money,” said NJEA member Barbara Toczko. “It differs because it’s not dues money. … Dues goes for everything else but it doesn’t go for political.”
Let’s explain one more time: Federal law prohibits unions from sending dues money to political candidates or parties. That money has to come from PACS, which collect their funds through voluntary donations. ALL OTHER POLITICAL SPENDING is made with dues money. In NJEA’s case, that spending is seven times larger than its PAC spending.
The reason so many union members are confused about this is because the union wants them to be confused. NJEA president Marie Blistan wouldn’t even answer Mishkin’s direct question about member dues for political activities, saying instead that dues are spent “for the purpose of advocating on behalf of them, wherever that has to be.”
Most of that “advocating on behalf of them” this year went toward attack ads and mailers against NJ Senate president Steve Sweeney, who was endorsed by AFT New Jersey and ended winning his largest victory ever. Every NJEA member contributed. Acceptance is the first step to recovery.