The union incurs no cost in negotiations except for an occasional lawyers fee - $1000 or so every couple of years when the contract is negotiated. The unpaid volunteers who form the negotiating committee cost, well, nothing. If your negotiating committee runs into difficulties - arbitration is never on the table because NEA doesn't want to pay their share of the cost. The coffee and doughnuts sure don't cost that much. There are no stipends for local head of union, etc. The "malpractice insurance" that is offered is available for something like $5 from the company, if you all bought in together. There is certainly no "strike fund" for the teachers. "Another NEA member will accompany you for advice if you are ever in trouble" really, just another teacher volunteer. If administration gets nastier and tries to fire you, the union will offer you help - a paralegal who doesn't return phone calls.
So where do those thousands of dollars go? Six-figure salaries at the union - check. Clerical assistants who make more than the highest-paid teacher in the state - check. Lobbying for legislation that has nothing to do with education such as abortion rights and gay marriage (and which are opposed by a large percentage of the teachers in this state) - check. Lobbying for legislation that DOES have an link to education, but isn't universally supported among teachers, such as the two vote rule for school budget overruns - check. Bloviating "on my behalf" for school and curricular reform that I don't agree with - check.
Oh yeah, I forgot ...
Seven unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have stepped in to help pay for the Democratic National Convention in Denver after the host committee announced in June it was $10 million short of its fundraising goals.Nice to know that my union is representing me.