by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Teachers’ unions are experiencing sharp declines in membership and revenue in former union strongholds Oregon and Washington, according to new annual reports.
Two Oregon teachers’ unions—the state’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) chapter and the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA)—reported drops in paying members of 35 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Both unions lost nearly $1 million in revenue as a result, with the OSEA closing three field offices and accepting a $400,000 bailout from its parent organization to help make ends meet. In Washington, the Federation of State Employees disclosed a 27 percent decline in financial supporters since June 2018.
The membership declines reflect the waning power of unions in the United States. Just 10.5 percent of American workers were members of unions in 2018, the lowest percentage in the past century. Hillary Clinton won union voters in 2016 by the narrowest margin of any Democrat since 1984, despite the fact that nearly every major union endorsed her campaign against President Trump.
A major turning point came in 2018 when the Supreme Court declared forced dues schemes for government workers unconstitutional in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Unions nationwide hemorrhaged revenue, as agency fee payers resigned. The loss of those partial dues payers caused AFT’s national office to lose 4.3 percent of its total financial supporters even as it added thousands of new members.