Probably no one knows more about the inner workings of America’s public employee unions than Mike Antonucci, author of the valuable and informed Education Intelligence Agency website. Antonucci recently wrote a piece for The 74 about the decline of public employee union membership, and particularly the decline at the local government level, where most school employees work. It’s been under-reported but it is big news. Perhaps the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision (declaring agency fees unconstitutional) is having an effect after all.
Using Bureau of Labor statistics data, Antonucci reports that from 2020 to 2021:
“Overall, the government workforce in the United States shrank by 4,913 employees in 2021, but the number of public-sector union members decreased by 190,182.”
“In local government, a category that includes most public school employees, there were 75,000 fewer union members, though there were 180,000 additional employees.”
Antonucci notes that this decline in local government employee union membership is a new development:
“The one area of steady membership levels over the decades has been in local government. But now, even that is starting to sag. There are fewer than 4 million union members working for local governments for the first time since 1988.”
Which brings Sunlight to New Jersey and the NJEA: How many members does the NJEA actually have? Prior to the revamp of its website last fall, the NJEA gave exact membership levels for every type of member, including teachers, education support personnel, and retired members. Now the NJEA’s website just says 200,000 without any breakdown. Surely such a round number is just an approximation. Why is the NJEA not providing the exact numbers as before?
The number 200,000 also implies a membership loss of 3,520 – a decrease of -1.7% – as the number was 203,520 in October 2021. Did this loss all happen since October 2021? Sunlight has been alerted to numerous instances of teachers opting out of membership because of issues like COVID-related mandates, Critical Race Theory and the thoroughly pro-Democrat orientation of the NJEA, so we wonder what the impact on membership has been.
So Sunlight asks: what is the NJEA’s current membership by membership category? We know that the NJEA will not respond to any inquiries from Sunlight, so perhaps some enterprising and curious reporter reporter would ask the question.