Teaching Profession

AFT’s Cash Reserves Down More Than $13 Million

By Liana Loewus — October 06, 2017 2 min read
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The American Federation of Teachers released its annual financials earlier this week. And given that the unions are in for a scary year, with a U.S. Supreme Court case looming that could negatively affect both membership and revenue, it’s worth taking a look at where the group’s numbers stand.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Net assets are down. The union reported $2.7 million in net assets at the end of June, a decrease of about $4.5 million from the prior year. (AFT told Politico that’s partly because a new chief financial officer is making more conservative financial estimates.)
  • Cash reserves are down. The union’s coffers went from $33.4 million to $19.9 million over the past year. “In layman’s terms, in addition to its usual expenditures, AFT took $13.5 million from its bank account and spent it,” writes union watchdog Mike Antonucci. The group spent extra on consultants, advocacy groups, and media outlets because it was an election year, he notes.
  • Membership is up. AFT reports having 1,591,911 members, up slightly from 1,544,143 last fiscal year.
  • Fee payers are up. The filing shows 93,844 fee payers. Last year the union reported having 89,375. As you may know, fee payers are people who are not members of the union but are required to pay fees to make up for the cost of collective bargaining. The upcoming Supreme Court case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, will decide whether collecting these fees is constitutional. And given the makeup of the High Court, it’s not looking good for the unions.

Union critics have pointed to one particular line item (well, technically two) as evidence of AFT’s attempts to wield influence with the media. The group spent $1.15 million—a noteworthy amount compared to other expenditures—to sponsor events for Atlantic Monthly, including a series on government and citizenship and a summit on being LGBTQ in the United States today.

“I’m not concerned that union cash grants are twisting minds among reporters and the general public,” writes Antonucci, noting that the Atlantic maintains editorial control over its content. “However, the amount of money AFT sent to The Atlantic for events exceeded the amount it sent to many of its own affiliates. I wonder if local members and officers feel they could have put that million to better use.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.