Teachers unions appear to have dodged a serious blow to their political activity and membership rolls following a sweeping Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, defying predictions that the unions’ traditional campaign organizing in advance of the midterm elections could be devastated.
Nine union leaders in eight states interviewed by POLITICO reported modest but anticipated drops in membership since the court decision, in addition to the loss of thousands of non-members who used to pay mandatory union fees. At the same time, union leaders reported an uptick in members attending rallies, canvassing neighborhoods and phone banking for the midterms, though the teachers unions’ national rankings in political giving to candidates slipped. Even conservatives acknowledged that teachers remained key to Democratic Party election organizing.
But firm numbers on current membership remain difficult to come by. Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers declined to provide estimates for how many of their members have dropped out since the court ruling. Combined, they have more than 4.6 million members and each lost more than 85,000 non-members paying mandatory fees, according to Department of Labor filings.