Analysis

Dems Get 99.9 Percent of 2018 Teacher Union Political Cash

But an imminent Supreme Court ruling could make unions more sensitive to GOP members

Michigan’s second-largest teachers union has released its candidate endorsements for the August primary elections.

The 103 candidates, who were endorsed by the AFT-Michigan Administrative Board, are running in the Aug. 7 primary elections to be their party’s candidate in races for governor, Congress and the Michigan Legislature.

Notably, the list only covers Democratic primary elections. The AFT-Michigan did not bother making endorsements in any of the state’s Republican primary contests.

Dave Hecker, president of AFT-Michigan, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Perhaps the teachers union didn’t think any of its members would even consider voting for a Republican.

There is some research, though, suggesting that a significant percentage of union members hold conservative viewpoints. By completely ignoring Republican primary races, then, the AFT-Michigan may be perceived as doing a disservice to these workers.

In 2006, the other big U.S. teachers union, the National Education Association, performed a survey. It found that 45 percent of teachers under the age of 30 classified themselves as conservative, and 63 percent of those aged 40 to 49 did the same.

More recently, a national teacher poll in 2017 by the Education Week Research Center found that 41 percent of respondents described themselves as Democrats, while 30 percent said they were independents and 27 percent identified as Republicans.

The AFT-Michigan has 18,426 members. If the percentages found in the Education Week poll hold true for that union, about 5,000 of its members consider themselves Republicans.

Yet in its endorsements and campaign contributions, the national AFT overwhelmingly supports Democrats.

OpenSecrets.org reports that the American Federation of Teachers has donated $7.9 million so far in the 2018 election cycle, with 99.9 percent of the money going to Democrats or what the website calls “liberals.”

Perceptions that unions are in the tank for Democrats could take on greater importance depending on the outcome of a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, with a potential landmark ruling expected any day.

The case is Janus v. AFSCME, which addresses whether governments may force their workers to make payments known as “agency fees” to the union as a condition of employment. While revenue from these fees cannot be used for political campaign purposes, the money nevertheless represents a critical piece of many unions’ funding.

If the court holds that public sector employees can no longer be compelled to pay these fees, Republicans and conservatives in government workplaces might withhold fees as a way to express their disagreement with the union’s political activities. This, in turn, could have a significant, if indirect, impact on the ability of unions to engage in large-scale spending on political campaigns.