The National Education Association (NEA) — the nation’s largest labor union — is preparing for a $50 million cut in expenditures over two years and the loss of hundreds of thousands of members as it anticipates losing a closely watched case over fees soon to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Such a cut would mean a roughly 13 percent reduction in expenditures compared to this year, according to the74million.org, an education news website that first reported the teachers union’s projection.
NEA officials confirmed the figures but emphasized the projections are part of conservative budgeting that is preliminary and would be discussed during the union’s annual July Fourth convention in Minneapolis.
The union has more than 3 million members, but estimates its rolls could be reduced by more than 300,000 during a two-year period, the news site reported.
The Supreme Court could issue a verdict any day in Janus v. AFSCME, which challenges the money that public unions such as teachers unions collect from nonmembers to cover their share of collective bargaining costs. It’s widely expected that with conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch on the high court, the ruling will be unfavorable to unions.
The case comes on the heels of another, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, that ended in a 4-4 deadlock following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The union is preparing for the shift at the same time thousands of teachers in several states have closed schools to protest low wages and cuts in education spending.
Mary E. Kusler, the senior director of NEA’s Center for Advocacy, said in an interview that the budgeting process underway is about realigning the union to focus on priorities, such as ensuring educators’ voices are heard and that they have a right to negotiate. Kusler said other areas of focus include engagement of early career educators and racial justice in schools and communities.
“The untold story here is that our union is solid and we’re solid and getting stronger despite the unprecedented attacks on working people by this special interest behind the Janus decision,” Kusler said.
Already, union officials said about 40 NEA employees retired around Jan. 1 in anticipation of cuts ahead.
“We continue to remain the largest labor union in the country and we’re not done yet. We are creating this budget in a way to invest in the growth and strength of a union that our members need and rely on and we’re not just going to sit around idly to prepare for the future,” Kusler said. “We are going to be proactive and prudent in how we’re moving forward.”
Separately, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said in a statement that AFT is in the midst of its annual budget process.
“Given our current financial projections and our members’ overwhelming willingness to stick with the union, we will not be proposing any dues increase for this year at our convention this summer,” Weingarten said. “We are confident we have the resources we need to continue to fight for our members and those they serve.”