Large Union Averts Disclosure with Semantics

Published June 1, 1999

A measure that would have allowed National Education Association members to designate where the political portion of their dues would go was ruled “out of order” by the union’s Committee on Constitution, Bylaws, and Rules. Submitted by Ed Weber of the Ohio Education Association and supported by at least 50 other delegates to NEA’s Representative Assembly, the proposed bylaw amendment would have read: “All members shall be given the opportunity to designate where the political contribution portion of their dues money is to be allocated.”

NEA’s committee ruled that “political contribution” meant “contributions to candidates for elective office,” an activity handled by NEA’s political action committee. This wordplay then allowed NEA’s Rules Committee to conclude, “Since no dues money is used for that purpose, the amendment is ruled out of order.”

Even though NEA-PAC handles all candidate contributions, the NEA still spends a large portion of its general fund–i.e. dues money–on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining. As much as 40 percent of dues money may be spent on activities other than collective bargaining, according to the NEA’s ownU.S. Supreme Court_mandated disclosures.