Teacher Unions Support Progressive Taxation, but Maintain Flat-Rate Membership Dues Structure

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Study shows lowest-paid teachers can pay up to 140 percent more of their salary than highest-paid teachers in membership dues

BOSTON – A new study published by Pioneer Institute finds that despite backing progressive taxation initiatives, Massachusetts teacher unions use regressive methods to collect revenue from their own members.

“The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) was the top contributor to a failed initiative to establish a graduated income tax in 2018,” said Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios.  “They have been part of similar efforts numerous times in the past and are again supportive of a new effort to do so this year.  Yet their members all pay flat dues, regardless of annual salary.”

In “Unions Are Not Progressive When It Comes to Their Members,” author Rebekah Paxton finds that for teachers making minimum salaries in the surveyed school districts, union dues can represent up to 2.1 percent of their pre-tax salary. For those within the same sample who make the maximum salaries, union dues account for as little as 0.7 percent of their salary. Therefore, the percentage of salary paid in dues is higher for lower earners than for higher earners.

For example, a Wayland teacher who earns the minimum amount on the district salary schedule spends 1.7 percent of pay on membership dues. A teacher making the maximum possible salary spends just 0.7 percent of pay on dues.

“The lowest-paid teachers have more than double the dues burden of the highest-paid teachers – up to 140 percent higher,” said Paxton.  “This directly contradicts the concept behind the graduated income tax that state teacher unions have historically backed.”

While salary schedules and union dues vary slightly from district to district, all union members pay the same dues amount to both the MTA and its parent organization, the National Education Association, regardless of school district salary schedules.  “This further exacerbates the differentials between highest and lowest earners,” Paxton said.

Differing dues burdens for minimum- and maximum-salary earners reveal that Massachusetts teacher unions themselves have a regressive revenue collection model.  The report concludes that while union leaders support progressive taxation, they are unwilling to implement the same approach when it comes to their own revenue.

About the Author

Rebekah Paxton is a Research Assistant at Pioneer Institute. She first joined Pioneer in 2017 as a Roger Perry intern, writing about government transparency and higher education within the Commonwealth. Since then, she has worked on various research projects under PioneerPublic and PioneerOpportunity, in areas of state finance, public policy, and labor relations. She recently earned an M.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Political Science and Economics, from Boston University, where she graduated summa cum laude.

About Pioneer

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.