Teaching Profession

A Deep Dive Into the AFT’s Spending Patterns

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 12, 2014 2 min read
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Just as we did last week with the National Education Association, let’s take a closer look at how the American Federation of Teachers spends its cash.

Once again, this is public data from the AFT’s federally mandated labor filings, representing the period from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013. The AFT collected about $145 million in dues that year and spent $335 million.

One caution: It’s tempting to compare these breakdowns with the NEA’s, but be aware that the unions classify some of their expenditures differently. For example, the NEA appears to have spent much more on gifts and donations, but that’s largely because its huge UniServ labor-services program is in that category.

AFT: 2012-13 Spending | Create Infographics

Representational activities represents recruiting, organizing, and legal services (probably related to due process or grievances). The union’s Reconnecting McDowell partnership in West Virginia also falls into this category.

Second, the AFT has a much larger category of “other” spending than the NEA. But that’s largely because the AFT paid back nearly $115 million in loans during that time period; the NEA did not owe anything on loans.

On to the AFT’s political activities/lobbying. As a reminder, since this activity is dues-funded, it can’t go directly to candidates or party committees. (That has to come from other, separate accounts.) Here are some of the big-ticket items:

  • $250,000 to the AFL-CIO Workers’ Voices PAC, a “super PAC” that conducts independent expenditures;
  • $500,000 to the Alliance for a Better California, a group that opposed California’s Proposition 32 seeking to curb union payroll deductions for political purposes;
  • $470,000 to Bynum Thompson Ryer, a political consultancy, for member education;
  • $749,000 to the Illinois Federation of Teachers, for political-organizing help and solidarity assistance, from the AFT’s Solidarity Fund, a special reserve in the union’s general fund that helps affiliates oppose legislation and ballot initiatives (read more about it in the final pages of this document; its parallel in the NEA is that union’s Ballot Initiative/Legislative Crisis Fund);
  • $200,000 to the National Democratic Redistricting Trust, an advocacy group;
  • $5.2 million to New York State United Teachers for a political education fund, and another $2.8 million in solidarity payments (NYSUT is by far the largest AFT state affiliate);
  • $750,000 to Protect Our Jobs, a group supporting a ballot initiative in Michigan seeking to add the right to collective bargaining to the state constitution; and
  • $750,000 to the Public Education Defense Fund, an advocacy group set up by the Florida Education Association.

And here are a few items from the gifts, contributions, and grants category:

  • $400,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative;
  • $300,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank;
  • $300,000 to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, a civic education museum scheduled to open in 2015; and
  • $250,000 to the National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.