This week’s Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME to end agency fees will bring big changes to teacher unions and how they operate in the states. Since not all states charge agency fees, how the decision will impact individual unions and union membership in different states is hard to say.
One way to broadly assess those impacts is to get a baseline on current teacher union membership. Our friend Mike Antonucci at Education Intelligence Agency, annually gathers such data for National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers’ union in the nation and its state affiliates. On Wednesday, Antonucci released NEA and state affiliate membership numbers for 2016-17
Some highlights include:
- In 2016-17, total NEA membership declined .6 percent from the previous year and 2.7 percent since 2011-12.
- NEA membership in North Carolina in 2016-17 was 30,561, down 7.2 percent from the previous year and down 37.8 percent since 2011-12.
- The percentage declines in total membership in North Carolina continue to be some of the largest in the country. Only Wisconsin (-45.2%) and the District of Columbia (-56.3%) had larger percentage declines in total membership.
2016-17 numbers can serve as the baseline to gauge how the Janus vs. AFSCME decision will impact union membership in the states. However, it is important to remember, some states have been experiencing declines in union membership for years. Here in North Carolina the data show that when combined with data from previous years, NEA membership in North Carolina has been declining for the past decade.
Lastly, NEA membership numbers for 2016-17 show that the NEA state affiliate in North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Educators, clearly failed to meet the state-mandated 40,000 member requirement to be eligible to have the state provide dues check off payroll services. Nevertheless, the state continues to provide the benefit.
The Janus v. AFSCME decision is expected to significantly impact membership in teacher’s unions. Some estimates expected NEA to lose up to $50 million and 300,000 members over the next two years. It’s important to understand those trends but to also realize that in states like North Carolina, teacher unions have been losing members for years. Whether Janus will work to accelerate those trends is a question that will impact not only teachers but also students and policymakers.