Right to Work Foundation to Appeal Ruling that Forces Teachers to Pay for Union Political Activities
SEATTLE, Wash. (July 9, 2003) — After a Washington appellate court threw out provisions of the state’s campaign finance law that required union officials to obtain the prior consent of public employees before spending mandatory union dues for politics, attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced they will seek discretionary review on behalf of more than 4,000 teachers at the state Supreme Court.
The ruling dismissing the teacher’s suit, Davenport v. Washington Education Association (WEA), came in connection with the appellate court’s decision last week to strike down part of Initiative 134, Washington’s so-called “paycheck protection” law, in the related case of Public Disclosure Commission v. WEA.
In that action the Thurston County Superior Court fined the WEA union $400,000 for intentionally violating I-134 and enjoined it from collecting that portion of the agency fee that was used for politics. Despite that ruling, Washington’s so-called “paycheck protection” law, like its counterparts in other states, has proven ineffective in limiting the use of union dues for political activities. In the case of the WEA, the union has actually increased its political resources since the law was passed.
Union lawyers for the WEA had filed an appeal in Davenport after Thurston County Superior Court Judge Daniel Berschauer ruled that the teachers had an implied right of action under I-134 to recover the fees the WEA had used, without their authorization, for political purposes. The trial court also certified the case as a class action on behalf of thousands of non-member teachers.
“These cases just show that so-called ‘paycheck protection’ laws are ineffective in halting the practice of forcing employees to function as ATM machines for union political operatives,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The only way to make sure workers are protected is to strip Washington union officials of their power to seize union dues from employees as a job condition.”
Even though by its own admission the WEA union spends millions of dollars each year on activities unrelated to collective bargaining, the much-hyped “paycheck protection” regulation has offered little relief to Washington teachers. If the state Supreme Court reinstates the Thurston County court’s rulings, teachers will still only be able to reclaim about $10 each per year, on average, under I-134. Greater relief is available under a settlement of a First Amendment lawsuit litigated by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys in recent years. Under that case, Leer v. WEA, non-member teachers may annually reclaim more than $175 each.