|NEA & AFT Ties to Occupy Wall Street Protests|
|posted by: Alix | October 27, 2011, 03:47 PM|
Since the class warfare message of the Occupy Wall Street protests started nearly two months ago, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have taken every chance possible to align themselves in solidarity with the group of mostly underemployed college students and left-leaning activists. With AFT President Randi Weingarten joining in on protests and affiliates in Kentucky and Missouri taking part in protests of their own, the teacher unions are quick to point out that "public education, teachers and unions have increasingly come under attack from the One Percent."
For example, in the union-stronghold of California, teachers have begun to take the fight into the classroom with a lesson plan entitled, "Who Are the 99%? Ways to Teach About Occupy Wall Street." Even CA-NEA affiliate President Dean Vogel called on the rich to pay more taxes. "It's time to put Main Street before Wall Street, and for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes," he said.
As the protests continue and the union rhetoric becomes more radical, one can't help but find the situation ironic. As RiShawn Biddle points out in the American Spectator, "Few organizations have managed to become so influential -- and build such vast coffers -- at the expense of taxpayers and their children." Sadly, a picture of Randi Weingarten protesting a few blocks from her posh Manhattan office complaining about the newly famed "one percent" is hypocritical to say the least.
An examination of the staggering amount of money compiled by the teacher unions puts the situation into perspective. The AFT collected $211 million a year in dues during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, while the even larger NEA pulled in $397 million. Taking into consideration affiliate state groups, the unions collectively take in about $1 billion, over half of which is taken by force in states with compulsory unionism. If you take into account their vast budgets, the NEA and AFT numbers align nicely with the corporations they so vehemently criticize.
In terms of salaries, the union executives rake in nearly 10 times the average household income. AFT President Weingarten collected $493,895 in 2010-2011, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. Are teachers or anyone in the private sector experiencing those increases in times of financial hardship? When nearly 600 staffers at the NEA and AFT are hauling in over six figures, the interests of the rank and file seem extremely far off.
In terms of their political power, the NEA and AFT far surpass Wall Street interests. The $297 million in campaign donations given by the unions in the last decade make them the biggest players in local, state, and national politics–period. Alone, the AFT spent $34 million last year on lobbying and contributions to like-minded groups, including the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank whose studies on education somehow always shake out in the unions favor.
Considering the staggering amount of power and influence the unions have, perhaps the young people of the Occupy Wall Street protests would be better served turning the spotlight on some of their own big money supporters. As RiShawn Biddle asserts, maybe one among them may become the next Michelle Rhee or Wendy Kopp who will work for the real little guy– our nation's children.
What do you think about the union alignment with the Occupy Wall Street protests?