November 13 2012
Vicki E. Alger
How powerful are teachers unions really? A new—and very comprehensive—analysis from the Fordham Institute tackles that very question. It looks at union membership, revenue, and state bargaining laws for starters. It also ranks states by unions’ their relative strength. The states where unions are strongest are: Hawaii, Oregon, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. California, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, and Washington State rounded out the top 10.
Arizona came in last—or first, depending on your point of view—in terms of union strength. Joining it for weakest union strength are Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia.
Responses from the teachers unions were predictable. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that “the report is deeply flawed and misleading.” Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said the findings were “laughable.” “Silly.” That’s the assessment of Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association (on the NJEA, see here, too.)
At a time when teachers unions are pouring truckloads of cash into campaigns, blocking student-centered reforms, and many elected officials quake in fear of crossing them, it’s important to have the facts straight.
Previous reports have documented that the National Education Association’s membership is down—while debt is up. State and local union affiliates, including the California Teachers Association and the Chicago Teachers Union, are not shy about strikes, regardless of the impact to schoolchildren.
When it comes to education policy, there’s plenty of room at the table for all voices to be heard. Of course, most union representatives are not exactly known for being the strong silent type. This new analysis helps shed light on the fact that while those union officials may not be so silent, they just might not be as strong as once assumed.