The National Education Association (NEA) is the NJEA’s parent organization and the largest labor union in the nation. But absent mergers the NEA has actually lost members, which would align with Sunlight’s thesis that the NJEA has also lost members. Of course, the NJEA hides its actual membership level, so we are forced to infer this loss from other facts.
The excellent Education Intelligence Agency (EIA) recently published a piece that revealed that the NEA is losing members. Here are the numbers:
- In 1998-99, the NEA had 2,436,157 members.
- In 2021-22, it had 2,871,908 members.
- This would appear to be a gain of 436,000 members.
BUT … during that time period, mergers with the affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) (in New York, Florida, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota) accounted for all of that increase and then some. As EIA points out, when two affiliates merge, both the NEA and AFT count the merged members as new members. So while the overall number of union members does not grow, the membership levels for both the NEA and AFT do grow.
- All told, union mergers added 437,290 NEA members.
- Absent the mergers, the NEA would have lost a net -1,290 members.
EIA also points out that during this time-period, the US added 346,000 teachers and “hundreds of thousands” of support personnel who would be eligible for union membership. Yet, absent mergers, the NEA’s organic membership growth was negative, so the percentage of teachers in the NEA shrunk substantially. Tellingly, of the 45 non-merged NEA affiliates, 24 have lost members since 1998-99.
The NJEA is one NEA affiliate that has grown since 1998-99. But as Sunlight has detailed, it looks like NJEA membership has shrunk since the Supreme Court’s Janus decision in 2018.
- The NJEA’s revamped website says the union has 200,000 members, which is lower than the 203,520 members listed prior to the revamp. So that’s at least a drop of -3,520.
- But the drop is certainly greater than -3,520. A recent recording provided to Sunlight by a friendly teacher revealed a NJEA field rep telling a local association that was “nearly 200,000,” so we know that the membership level is something less than the 200,000 advertised on the website.
- This is confirmed by looking at the NJEA’s financial statements. Since 2018, the overall revenue from dues has not increased as much as the annual dues paid by individual members, which implies a membership decline of -3.8%. This would bring NJEA membership to 195,786, a decline of -7,644.
Given the fallout from pandemic-related school closures and retirements, and the statewide controversies over sex ed and critical race theory, it seems likely that NJEA membership has fallen even further.
Perhaps some enterprising reporter can ask the NJEA exactly what their actual membership level is.