15 Largest Teachers’ Unions In The United States

By Chris Kolmar - Mar. 4, 2021

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In many ways, teachers are the roots of any country. They educate our children, watch them while we’re working, and provide mental and moral support for them.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 3.2 million full-time teachers and approximately 130,930 K-12 schools across the nation.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that there are massive teachers’ unions all across the US, designed to keep teachers protected and provide them with valuable resources. In fact, nearly 70% of all American teachers belong to a teachers’ union.

So who are the largest teachers’ unions in the US? To answer that, we’ve gathered a list of the top 15 largest teachers’ unions, based on their total number of members.

Keep in mind that the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) dominate here, so this list includes many of their state-level affiliates.

  1. National Education Association — Washington, D.C.

  2. American Federation of Teachers — Washington, D.C.

  3. New York State United Teachers — Albany, New York

  4. The California Teachers Association — Burlingame, CA

  5. California School Employees Association — San Jose, California

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  6. New Jersey Education Association — Trenton, New Jersey

  7. Pennsylvania State Education Association — Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

  8. Michigan Education Association — East Lansing, Michigan

  9. Florida Education Association — Tallahassee, Florida

  10. Illinois Education Association — Springfield, Illinois

  11. Ohio Education Association — Columbus, Ohio

  12. Massachusetts Teachers Association — Quincy, Massachusetts

  13. Education Minnesota — Saint Paul, Minnesota

  14. Maryland State Education Association — Annapolis, Maryland

  15. Texas State Teachers Association — Austin, Texas

Top 15 Largest Teachers’ Unions in the United States

  1. National Education Association

    Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
    Members: 3,100,000

    Founded over 150 years ago in 1857, today’s National Education Association services millions of public school teachers, counselors, college faculty, retired educators, and future teachers.

    Not only is the NEA the largest teachers’ union in the United States, but also the largest white-collar labor union overall.

    This massive union was formed through a few mergers, one of the most notable being a 1966 merger with the historically black American Teachers Association. Since then, the NEA has grown to service educators in all 50 states and collects at least $300,000 in dues from its members each year.

    Additionally, the NEA isn’t shy about its preferred policies and political leanings. Some of their most prominent positions include a minimum of $40,000 per year for teachers, and at least partially dismantling the “No Child Left Behind Act”.

    Politically speaking, the NEA pours overwhelming support into the American Democratic Party, as over the course of 25 years, the union has donated 92% of their political campaign contributions into the party.

  2. American Federation of Teachers

    Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
    Members: 1,700,000

    Established in 1916, the American Federation of Teachers is an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and considerably large teachers’ union.

    While the AFT services college faculty, healthcare workers, and other paraprofessionals, around 60% of the union is composed of K-12 education workers.

    Throughout time, the ATF has been known as a rather progressive organization. For example, this union was one of the first to allow African-Americans and other minority groups to become full members. As early as 1918, the ATF made equal pay for African-American teachers a part of its platform.

    Today, the ATF is just as politically involved as others on this list. For instance, in 2008 the union spent almost $4 million between Democratic candidates Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, and in 2016, the union’s members were divided in support between Clinton and the even more progressive Bernie Sanders.

  3. New York State United Teachers

    Headquarters: Albany, New York
    Members: 612,297 educators (former & current)

    Affiliated with both the NEA and the ATF, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is the largest state-level teachers’ union in the United States. This union mainly services New York residents, however, it’s also known to lobby and conduct research on the federal level.

    In 1976 the NYSUT established a retiree division, which attracted many retired educators. According to NYSUT’s current records, at least a third of their total members, roughly 200,000, are retirees.

    NYSUT is also no stranger to politics, opting to financially support full retirement benefits for any teacher aged 55 who had been teaching for at least 30 years. To pass legislation like this, NYSUT also tends to donate money to the Democratic Party.

    For instance, in 2012 the union endorsed Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney.

  4. The California Teachers Association

    Headquarters: Burlingame, CA
    Members: 325,000

    The California Teachers Association (CTA) is a 158-year-old NEA affiliate with 500 offices across the Golden State.

    This union services K-12 teachers, college faculty, retirees, and other educators. In fact, the CTA seems to focus heavily on community colleges, working with campuses in at least 72 districts.

    In California, the CTA is known to have a high political profile. In 1988, the union fought for the historic bill that allocated at least 40% of the state’s general fund to schools and community colleges.

    Later in 2005, the CTA heavily criticized then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for failing to return $2 billion of “borrowed” money from the Education Department.

  5. California School Employees Association

    Headquarters: San Jose, California
    Members: 248,000

    Founded in 1927, the California School Employees Association (CSEA) is an AFL affiliate servicing 100 regions across California. This union mainly services classified (non-certificated) school employees.

    Over the years, the CSEA has been involved in several California political movements, including the fight for retirement benefits, collective bargaining, higher school funding, and safety regulations for classified employees in particular.

  6. New Jersey Education Association

    Headquarters: Trenton, New Jersey
    Members: 203,520

    New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is an NEA affiliate that services teachers,
    education support professionals, retirees, and students. The NJEA has 22 offices across the state of New Jersey.

    Overall, this union’s staff is organized into seven divisions: Business, Communications, Executive Office, Government Relations, Professional Development, Research and Economic Services, and UniServ.

  7. Pennsylvania State Education Association

    Headquarters: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
    Members: 187,000

    Established in 1852, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is one of the oldest teachers’ unions in the US.

    Officially, PSEA is an NEA affiliate with a wide range of members, including teachers, education support professionals, counselors, librarians, healthcare workers, school nurses, social workers, community college, students, and retirees.

    According to the PSEA, one of their main missions is to “bargain and protect professional salaries, benefits, pensions, and safe and effective working conditions.”

  8. Michigan Education Association

    Headquarters: East Lansing, Michigan
    Members: 157,000

    Also founded in 1852, the Michigan Education Association (MEA) is an NEA affiliate that represents teachers, education support staff, college faculty, public school custodians, bus drivers, and others all throughout Michigan. This union represents educators working in the public and private sectors.

    Historically speaking, the MEA was one of the first labor unions to represent both teachers and other school personnel, as it merged with the Michigan Educational Support Personnel in 1984.

  9. Florida Education Association

    Headquarters: Tallahassee, Florida
    Members: 137,000

    The Florida Education Association (FEA) is a state-level affiliate of both the NEA and the AFT. Founded in 1886, the FEA has a long history of fighting for teachers’ rights.

    This union was the first to lead a statewide teachers’ strike in the United States. In 1968, teachers had had enough of low pay, poor benefits, and rundown facilities.

    While the strike was ultimately unsuccessful, a year later the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the FEA, allowing teachers the right to bargain collectively.

  10. Illinois Education Association

    Headquarters: Springfield, Illinois
    Members: 135,000

    The Illinois Education Association (IEA) is a state-level NEA affiliate founded in 1853. The IEA has a variety of members, including K-12 teachers, college faculty, education support professionals, retirees, and students.

    While a majority of the union’s members are teachers, it still provides useful programs and services for its other members.

  11. Ohio Education Association

    Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio
    Members: 125,000

    Another older teachers’ union on this list, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) is an NEA affiliate founded in 1847. The OEA represents a variety of members, from teachers to librarians, and counselors to retirees.

    Overall, the OEA is composed of over 700 local affiliates and district associations across the state.

  12. Massachusetts Teachers Associatio

    Headquarters: Quincy, Massachusetts
    Members: 110,000

    Founded in 1845, The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) is the oldest teachers’ union on this list.

    Today, the MTA is a state-level NEA affiliate with roughly 400 local organizations throughout the state, and mainly services K-12 and college educators, education support professionals, and other school faculty members.

    Over the life of the MTA, the union has supported several state and federal political movements. Most recently, in 2020 the union supported the Student Opportunity Act, which will provide $2 billion a year in additional funding for public schools.

  13. Education Minnesota

    Headquarters: Saint Paul, Minnesota
    Members: 86,000

    Established by a 1998 merger between the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT), today’s MEA is the youngest teacher’s union on this list.

    After the merger, MEA became a state-level teachers’ union dually affiliated with the NEA and AFT. This union maintains 17 offices across the state of Minnesota and supports at least 440 local unions in the state.

  14. Maryland State Education Association

    Headquarters: Annapolis, Maryland
    Members: 75,000

    The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) is a state-level NEA affiliate that provides protection and resources for Maryland teachers, education support professionals, retirees, and other educators. Statewide, MSEA has 39 local affiliated associations.

  15. Texas State Teachers Association

    Headquarters: Austin, Texas
    Members: 68,000

    Last but not least, the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) is an NEA affiliate servicing educators throughout Texas since 1880.

    In the state of Texas, the TSTA is credited with authoring and ultimately passing the minimum foundation laws, which set appropriate statewide salaries for teachers.

    Interestingly, TSTA members were actually rather divided on whether or not they wanted to merge with the NEA. In 1974, the union held an all-member vote which resulted in 54,992 for the merger and 46,661 against.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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