MEMBER RESOURCE CENTER - Sunlight Policy Center

TEACHER DUES BELONG LOCAL

New Jersey teachers pay the highest union dues in the nation, yet only 12% of that money ever makes it to their local union. Instead, your highest-in-the-nation dues pay for political spending and Wall Street-level compensation for top NJEA execs in Trenton. 

Click to learn about NJEA President Sean Spiller

Your voice deserves to be heard

FACT: New Jersey teachers are now leaving the NJEA in droves.

FACT: Educators in New Jersey do not have to join the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

At Sunlight Policy Center, we believe in empowering teachers with the facts, so they can make the best decision for their families.

When it comes to the NJEA versus a local-only union, here is what you need to know:

YOU CAN pay $1500 a year for your NJEA membership, with $1038 going to the NJEA and $208 to the NEA. Only $180 goes to your local association, which has roots in the local community and does most of the representation work. OR, YOU CAN demand more funds for your local union so you, your students, and your schools can benefit directly from your hard-earned dollars. New Jersey’s other teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, allows most of teachers’ dues to stay with the local. Why not the NJEA?
YOU CAN continue to pay for excessive compensation for NJEA execs, who make more money than any other teachers union in the nation by far. Like multi-millionaire former Executive Director Ed Richardson, who made $9.3 million over his career — all paid for by teachers’ dues. OR, YOU CAN demand that more of your dues stay with your local or even elect a new collective bargaining representative. You have never had the chance to vote on the NJEA as your representative because the only vote was over 50 years ago! You can change that. See our research report for more information.
YOU CAN continue to pay dues to the NJEA and provide NJEA execs with gold-plated pensions that are over-funded. Meanwhile, teachers’ pensions are modest and severely underfunded. You should know that in the 1990s and 2000s, NJEA execs cut political deals that permitted pension asset raids and severely undermined your pensions, leaving you to deal with the consequences. OR, YOU CAN save your $1500 a year in dues and still keep your pension, which is yours as a teacher, not as a NJEA member. Why reward an organization that took care of top execs’ pensions but did not take care of teachers’ pensions as they were supposed to?
YOU CAN be pressured into believing that teachers must become members of the NJEA to keep their jobs. OR, YOU CAN exercise your 1st Amendment rights and choose not to join the NJEA — and still work under the same collective bargaining agreement as NJEA members. Your tenure, seniority, work conditions and salary will remain the same.
YOU CAN continue to pay dues to the NJEA and get your health benefits under your local collective bargaining agreement.  OR, YOU CAN stop paying dues to the NJEA and get EXACTLY THE SAME HEALTH BENEFITS under your local collective bargaining agreement.
YOU CAN continue to pay $1500 in dues and get liability insurance, legal representation, and disability insurance (for an additional fee).  OR, YOU CAN secure liability insurance, legal representation, and disability insurance at a fraction of the cost of NJEA dues by joining teachers associations like the Association of American Educators, Christian Educators or American Public Servants Association.
YOU CAN send  your money to the NJEA, an organization that appropriated over $68 million of your dues to spend on politics without your knowledge or consent and that spent 99% on Democrats in 2023. OR, YOU CAN choose to make your own political donations to the strongest candidates, regardless of political party, or choose to stay out of politics altogether and keep the money for yourself. 

How To Stop Paying Dues

There are two steps to stopping union dues from being taken out of your paycheck:

1. Notifying your district Business Administrator that you want them to stop taking union dues out of your paycheck.
2. Resigning from the union.

Stopping Dues

  • You can notify your district Business Administrator at any time that you want them to stop taking dues out of your paycheck.
  • Simply send your district Business Administrator an email saying you want them to stop taking union dues out of your paycheck. That’s it. That’s your official notice. We recommend that you copy the Payroll Department on your email and keep a copy of your correspondence for your own records. Here is a sample email you can use. SAMPLE EMAIL.
  • Ask the district Business Administrator to acknowledge receipt of your email and for the actual date when they will stop taking union dues out of your paycheck. If you use Sunlight’s SAMPLE EMAIL, these requests are already included. Please see the FAQ section above for when they are required to stop taking dues out of your paycheck (your “effective date,” which depends on when you were hired). When they tell you a date, be sure to follow up a few weeks before that date to make sure they will do what they are required to do.
  • If your Business Administrator is unresponsive or refuses to stop taking out dues from your paycheck, you have legal protections and we are here to support you. Please contact our legal team HERE.

Resigning from the union

    • Many districts require that you also resign from the union in order to stop paying dues. In order to stop paying dues as soon as possible, we recommend that you resign from your union at the same time you notify the Business Administrator that you want to stop paying dues. This will lessen the chance for delays due to interference from the union.
    • We recommend that you notify the union of your desire to resign in writing or by email so you have a record of your request. The union may make you go through their administrative process and try to persuade you to change your mind, but they cannot legally stop you from resigning.
    • If the union is unresponsive or refuses to let you resign, you have legal protections and we are here to support you. Please contact our legal team HERE

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Our goal is to inform you of your rights and the facts. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and our answers to help you make the best decision for you and your family. If we’ve missed something, please feel free to contact us with your questions HERE.

If I inform the Business Administrator that I want to stop paying dues, when will the district actually stop withholding dues from my paycheck (my “effective date”)?

If you were hired before May 18, 2018, you can notify the Business Administrator at any time, but the “effective date” when the district will stop withholding dues from your paycheck is either July 1 or January 1, whichever comes first after you give notice. If you were hired May 18, 2018 or later, you can notify the Business Administrator at any time, but your “effective date” will be 30 days after the anniversary of your hiring date. So if you were hired on September 1, your next “effective date” would be October 1, 2023.

If I leave the NJEA, will my job or salary or benefits be affected?

No, all teachers and paraprofessionals, including those who are not in the union, are covered by the same collective bargaining agreement. Your job, salary, tenure, seniority and health benefits will all stay the same and will continue to be controlled by the collective bargaining agreement, not by the union. If you experience problems with any of these issues, please contact us HERE.

If I leave the NJEA, can I still get liability insurance?

Yes. For a fraction of the costs of your union dues any New Jersey teacher can still receive liability insurance. You can obtain liability insurance ​from ​a broad array of ​​reputable insurance companies​,​ or ​through teachers’ associations like the Association of American Educators, Christian Educators, or American Public Servants Association.

If I leave the NJEA, can I still get disability insurance?

Yes. NJEA members who purchase disability insurance must pay for it in addition to their annual dues. As a non-member, there are a variety of options available to you. Many insurance companies provide disability insurance and are competitive with what the NJEA is currently charging you. ​Similar options are also available ​from teachers’ associations like the Association of American Educators, Christian Educators, or American Public Servants Association.

For additional information on obtaining disability insurance as a non-NJEA member, please see the Americans For Fair Treatment webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbxiBm1KZ9c.

Can the NJEA retaliate against me?

No, it is illegal for the NJEA or the local union to retaliate against you. You have legal protections against any retaliation. If you feel you are being retaliated against, please contact Sunlight’s legal team HERE.

Will my colleagues think I’m selfish to opt out of paying union dues?

This is a common fear, but most folks respect your right to join the association of your choice. A survey of education professionals indicated that 90% of professionals respect the right of their colleagues to join the association of their choice. Exercising your legal right as a professional is never selfish.

If I leave the NJEA, will my tenure or seniority be affected?

No, union membership will have no impact on your tenure or seniority. As a non-member, your tenure and seniority will continue to be controlled by the collective bargaining agreement, not the union.

If I leave the NJEA, will my pension or retirement health benefits change?

No, your pension and retirement health benefits are yours as a teacher or paraprofessional, not as a NJEA member. The state provided those to you and will be responsible for them when you retire, not the union.

If I leave the NJEA, can I get similar legal representation for job-related issues?

Yes, if you join a teachers’ association like the Association of American Educators, Christian Educators, or American Public Servants Association, you will get job-related legal representation as part of your membership at a fraction of the cost of your NJEA dues.

What if my Business Administrator is unresponsive or refuses to stop taking union dues out of my paycheck?

It is against the law for your Business Administrator to refuse your request that they stop taking dues out of your paycheck. If your Business Administrator is unresponsive or refuses to honor your request, please contact Sunlight’s New Jersey legal team HERE. We stand ready to help you exercise your 1st Amendment rights.

If You Have Additional Questions…