WEA Dues and Hypocrisy

WEA Dues and Hypocrisy

WEA Dues and Hypocrisy

The teacher’s union industry in Washington state collects more than $70 million each year, but who actually pays? And how much?

Average dues for the 2018-19 school year are $1,060 per teacher. Teachers in the Olympia and Everett areas pay more than $100 per month.

Four levels of union bureaucracy are funded by educators and some classified school employees — the National Education Association, the Washington Education Association, a “UniServ” regional office and the local association.

See the union dues for full time educators for each district here.

Hypocrisy of the WEA dues structure 

First, dues aren’t for workplace representation.

Union talking points focus intently on the yeoman’s work local union reps do speaking on behalf of employees in the collective bargaining process. The union rhetoric about why payment is important describes hard-working teams spending long hours at the bargaining table, enforcing contract provisions and standing up for employees in the discipline process.

One problem. In most cases, the people doing these things are not paid with union dues money.

Instead, dues for a teacher are distributed with entirely different priorities:

  • $443 sent to the Federal Way bureaucracy; and,
  • $192 sent to Washington, D.C. for an enormous bureaucracy

Nearly 60 percent of the money is sent to people who may never set foot in a teacher’s school. In fact, those who negotiate locally are commonly not paid by union dues, but by taxpayer-funded “release time.”

Second, dues are regressive and unfair to the lowest-paid teachers.

Union executives preach “progressive values” in the economy — and especially in workplaces.

Yet the WEA practices reflect regressive values that exploit the lowest paid and make sure the wage gap grows between the wealthiest members and those paid the least.

Unlike nearly all other unions, WEA executives implement a flat-rate dues policy, where all members pay an identical amount regardless of income. This practice means a young, new teacher can be paying 2.7 percent of his or her income to the union, while the highest-paid only pay 1.2 percent.

In addition, low-paid, young teachers are not well represented on bargaining committees or in union leadership positions. As a result, the bargaining agreements regularly widen the gap between young teachers and highest-paid teachers. In some cases, the older teachers negotiate higher percentage raises and other perks for the highest-paid union members.

Third, solidarity does not extend to young teachers.

Seniority-based retention in school districts is a union creation. This policy means the more years of service one has, the more privileges and job security the union contract provides. Consequently, older employees who fill union positions and bargaining teams actively work to make sure young teachers have the most difficult work situations and are the first to be laid off.

This year young teachers are being sacrificed for the raises for the most senior teachers. All across the state this year, the older union teachers negotiated and grabbed more than their share of the increased funding windfall.

Their raises created deficits and resulted in young teachers being laid off. So much for solidarity.

Fortunately, young teachers no longer can be forced to pay. And why should they?

  • Union dues are regressive for young teachers.
  • Union dues are used to help the high paid more than the young teachers.
  • Union dues even are used to cost young teachers their job.

If you’re a young teacher or know someone who is, direct them to this website that will end their dues deduction and answer questions:


Senior Policy Analyst
Jami Lund is the Freedom Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst. From 2004 to 2011, he developed legislative policy as a research analyst for the Washington House Republican Caucus. Prior to that he worked for the Freedom Foundation as the Project Manager for the Teachers Paycheck Protection project, shepherding the development of the Foundation’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court case to protect teacher rights. Jami is an accomplished speaker and researcher, one of Washington state’s top scholars on education policy and finance.