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Antonucci: No, really — as I reported last week, the California Teachers Association did not add 22,000 members this year

Mike Antonucci | August 21, 2019

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Last week, I expressed very strong doubt about this claim from the California Teachers Association, reported by Louis Freedberg of EdSource in a story about the disaffiliation of the 19,000-member California Faculty Association, which represents employees of the California State University system:

“The CTA anticipates that some 22,000 new members it says it has recruited over the past year will offset the approximately 19,000 CSU staff the CTA says belonged to both the faculty association and the CTA. The CTA says its overall membership will remain around 325,000.”

I listed the reasons why those numbers were extremely unlikely. In response, I heard from a CTA staffer, who shall remain anonymous, as I never identify the union insiders who communicate with me. The staffer wasn’t pleased with my disbelief and offered up “some facts for you to chew on.”

The employee wanted me to know that the state union had doubled its membership recruiting and engagement, that many former agency-fee payers had joined CTA as full members, and new members had signed on in greater numbers. As for the faculty union disaffiliation, the staffer remarked, “good riddance.”

There were a lot of words, but no numbers, so I feel obligated to further demonstrate why the CTA claim is, at best, an exaggeration.

Let’s begin with sources. All the membership numbers I cite are from the CTA treasurer’s reports. As you might imagine, CTA does not distribute these to the general public, but I have them in paper form and on hand. Here is a graph from a recent one:

The union’s active membership on Dec. 31, 2017, was 325,812. On Dec. 31, 2018, it was 328,913. That’s an increase of 3,101.

In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, that was pretty good. CTA may be the financially strongest of all National Education Association state affiliates.

But it’s not 22,000, and since membership increases the most in autumn, it is a virtual impossibility that the union added 19,000 more members between January and June 2019.

Even the 3,101-member increase requires context. We don’t yet have official figures from the California Department of Education about how many additional teachers school districts hired in 2018-19, but if we take an average from the last four years, it would be about 4,500 potential new recruits. Add in the 28,459 former fee payers, and CTA had a pool of almost 33,000 non-members to sign up.

They signed up 3,101 or 9.4 percent.

Oh, but even that is inflated, as it includes members recruited by the newly seceded California Faculty Association. The faculty union, which constituted about 5.8 percent of CTA’s active membership, accounted for 532 new members, or 17.2 percent of the total. None of those folks is a CTA member anymore.

That drops CTA’s success rate to 7.8 percent.

As illustrated in the graph above, CTA added 7,922 active members in 2017, so the result of the doubled membership recruiting and engagement was about a two-thirds drop in growth.

I can get things wrong, but when the union makes a claim that isn’t supported by its own internal reports, I feel like I’m on solid ground. You’re free to disagree, but bring some data with you.

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