AnalysisUnion Report  

Union Report Exclusive: Internal Report Shows NEA Losses of 17,000 Members and 87,000 Fee Payers Since Janus Decision

By Mike Antonucci | October 24, 2018

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The National Education Association is feeling the first effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which ended the practice of public-sector unions charging fees to nonmembers. New membership numbers obtained by Union Report show that NEA now stands at 3,001,570 total members — a decline of 17,000 since the last report in April. This erased much of the membership increase the union saw in 2017.

More damaging to the union’s coffers is the loss of its more than 87,000 former agency fee payers nationwide after the court’s ruling. The percentage losses are comparable to those of the Maryland State Education Association, reported here two weeks ago.

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NEA already cut its budget in anticipation of these losses, but it is looking for additional ways to reduce expenditures. The first proposal is to cut the number of days at its annual convention by two, saving $1 million. The Representative Assembly itself, where the union’s delegates debate and vote on policies, endorsements, and the budget, would continue to last four days; some pre-RA activities, which previously ran for about a week, would be eliminated or consolidated.

The open hearing on the union’s strategic plan and budget, previously conducted in person the day before the RA opened, would be converted to a virtual meeting.

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NEA also plans to eliminate the convention expo, where companies and organizations set up booths to promote their various goods and services. Union executives expect to save money due to the reduced convention center floor space they would be required to rent.

As we monitor NEA’s latest efforts to mitigate the consequences of Janus, we also came across a significant action by one of its state affiliates, the Washington Education Association, which escaped the notice of the state’s media outlets for the past few months.

It is unclear when it was first listed, but WEA’s headquarters building in Federal Way was up for sale this summer, until about August 20, when it was withdrawn from the market.

The union’s last IRS disclosure report showed net assets of negative $37 million. Since Washington was an agency fee state, the Janus decision promised to make that bad situation even worse.

WEA’s asking price for the 59,000-square-foot building was $11.4 million, but it had no plans to move out. “The Washington Education Association is willing to lease-back 100% of the building for a 5-year term, upon the sale of their headquarters building to an investor,” reads the real estate firm’s promotional flyer. “The WEA intends to consolidate their operations into approximately 75% of the building, including the entire 2nd floor and the north half of the 1st floor.

“The WEA would bring the remaining 25% of the building to the market for sublease, ideally for a term greater than five years, creating the opportunity for staggered lease expirations,” the notice said.

Withdrawing the listing could be either a good or bad sign. Perhaps the union’s financial situation improved to the point where the sale was unnecessary. Or perhaps there were no takers. WEA kept the whole enterprise under wraps while many of its locals prepared for contract negotiations and strikes.

Whatever else the Janus ruling did, it also forced public employee unions to think like the corporations they love to denounce. They are managing their assets, workforces, recruitment strategies, and real estate with an eye to the bottom line. It’s a brave new world for them.

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