Freedom Foundation

AFT Annual Report Discloses Post-Janus Membership Decline

This week, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the country’s largest government unions, filed its annual Form LM-2 with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) disclosing its financial condition for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018.

The disclosure provides the first look at how AFT has weathered the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27, 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which struck down state laws requiring public employees to pay union dues/fees as unconstitutional.

Because Janus was decided mere days before the union’s 2018 LM-2 was filed, that form did not reflect any changes in AFT membership or finances that may have resulted from losing the ability to compel dues/fee payment from AFT-represented employees.

By contrast, the union’s 2019 LM-2 covers an entire year post-Janus and shows the union has experienced a 4.3 percent decline in the number of its financial supporters nationwide.

American Federation of Teachers – Schedule 13/Membership Status
Category 2018 2019 Change
Full Per Capita Tax Payers 724,109 732,407 8,298 1.1%
One Half Per Capita Tax Payers 234,593 233,840 -753 -0.3%
One Quarter Per Capita Tax Payers 81,970 78,870 -3,100 -3.8%
One Eighth Per Capita Tax Payers 25,858 23,675 -2,183 -8.4%
Laid Off and Unpaid Leave Members 1,288 971 -317 -24.6%
Associate Members 51,059 45,406 -5,653 -11.1%
Merged Local and State Members 165,116 167,047 1,931 1.2%
Retiree Members 393,782 402,328 8,546 2.2%
Agency Fee Payers 85,788 3,075 -82,713 -96.4%
Total 1,763,563 1,687,619 -75,944 -4.3%

Some takeaways from the data:

  • The biggest reason for the decline was the loss of 82,713 agency fee-payers post-Janus. Agency fee-payers were public employees who refused to join AFT as formal members but who nonetheless had union fees withheld from their wages by their employer. Under Janus, AFT had to cease collecting fees from agency fee-payers. The remaining 3,075 agency fee-payers in 2019 most likely work in private-sector jobs unaffected by Janus.
  • AFT managed to slightly boost its membership among employees working full-time jobs but lost more ground among part-time and associate members.
  • Boosting membership among retirees helped mitigate AFT’s losses. Increased recruitment of retired employees into membership is a tactic many large unions appear to have adopted post-Janus to help pad their overall numbers. In AFT’s case, membership among active employees, not counting retirees, declined 6.2 percent from 2018 to 2019.

This is roughly in line with what other large government unions have already disclosed on their LM-2 forms. However, because of its unique accounting year, AFT was the last major union to file an LM-2 disclosing post-Janus effects. This delay has allowed it to downplay the consequences of Janus for months in the press.

For instance, AFT told Politico in May that “it gained more than 17,000 members in the eight months that followed Janus…” According to the data in AFT’s LM-2, however, the only way to reach such a number is to only count the categories of membership in which the union saw increases: Full per capita, 8,298 + merged local and state, 1,931 + retirees, 8,546 = 18,775. However, the union also lost 12,006 members in other categories, in addition to a loss of 83,000 non-member agency fee payers.

Thus, AFT’s net increase in overall membership was only 6,769. And if only active employees are counted, the union actually lost 1,777 members, in addition to losing the ability to collect fees from 83,000 nonmembers.

The declines also appear to have affected AFT’s financial situation. In 2018, AFT collected $196.8 million in per capita taxes paid by its affiliates. In 2019, that amount declined by 9.1 percent to $178.8 million.

Over the next six months, the other major government unions will file their next round of LM-2 forms disclosing their financial situation for the first complete accounting year post-Janus.