Outrageous! Taxpayers will pay Randi Weingarten a pension because of government's special deals with unions

Randi Weingarten hasn’t taught school for 25 years, but unions still get taxpayers to pay her pension

New York taxpayers are on the hook to pay government pension benefits for teachers union boss Randi Weingarten — one of the most powerful political operatives in the country — even though she hasn’t stepped into a classroom to teach for a quarter-century.  

The culprit is a corrupt, unconstitutional practice that many taxpayers haven’t even heard about. It’s called union release time — and it benefits the government’s favored special interests at the taxpayers’ expense.  

Weingarten is the head of the American Federation of Teachers, a private labor union with annual revenue of $200 million a year. The AFT is one of the most politically active special interests in America, giving tens of millions of dollars to political candidates, parties, and political action committees — more than 98% of which is directed to benefit Democrats, some estimates show.  


Weingarten claims to have once been a full-time teacher, but that appears to be true only for a tiny portion of her long career, and she hasn’t taught a single student since at least 1997. Since that time, she has worked full-time as a union boss, advocating for the private interests and political causes of the AFT and its affiliates.   

Randi Weingarten Supreme Court

Randi Weingarten hasn't taught a class in 25 years but she will still get a pension paid by the taxpayers. (Twitter)

In a recent report, the Freedom Foundation unearthed documents showing that even though Weingarten hasn’t been a public teacher for decades, she is nonetheless going to receive a taxpayer-funded pension because of release time.  

This pernicious practice "releases" government employees from the jobs they were originally hired to do, to instead work full-time for private labor unions — all while still receiving their full taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits, including pension benefits.  

Release time flouts state constitutional anti-subsidy provisions intended to protect taxpayers against special interest abuse. It may also violate the First Amendment rights of government employees who do not want to support private union activities, as the Goldwater Institute, the free-market think tank where I work, has pointed out in challenging the legality of this practice. 


Yet Goldwater Institute research shows that release time exists across the country at all levels of government, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. 

Weingarten, for her part, has been on release time for 25 years, meaning she has worked full-time for a private union rather than discharging any public responsibilities. The AFT picks up the tab for her substantial $543,562 in annual compensation, but under an odd provision of the contract between her union and the school district, the district is still on the hook for her government pension benefits.  

That means taxpayers in New York are going to pay for Weingarten’s retirement even though she hasn’t performed public service for a quarter-century.  

Just like Weingarten, release time employees throughout the country receive government pension benefits for working full-time for private labor unions. That’s wrong: after all, tax dollars should be spent to advance the public interest, not pad the retirement of private, political activists.   

The Freedom Foundation has done a valuable service in unearthing this outrageous taxpayer abuse. Now citizens should demand that their tax dollars stop funding special interests and the operatives who are getting rich representing them—and fund the public interest instead.  

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