Legal Foundation for Petitioners in First Amendment Battle Comment on Today’s Supreme Court Oral Argument
Washington, DC (January 10, 2007) – Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, made the following statement regarding today’s U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in Davenport v. Washington Education Association. The Foundation is a non-profit organization providing free legal aid to victims of compulsory unionism abuse, and whose staff attorneys filed the case in 2003 and successfully appealed the case to the Supreme Court on behalf of lead petitioner Gary Davenport and 4,000 other nonunion Washington State teachers.
“The Davenport case is a defensive battle that underscores how labor law is a stacked deck against the individual. In the 28 states without Right to Work laws, millions of employees are forced to choose between paying dues to a union they do not support and losing their job. Washington is one of these states.
“This case is a legal rescue mission that should have never been necessary. In responding to a law trying to limit this abuse, an activist ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court created from whole cloth a constitutional ‘right’ for union officials to spend dues taken from nonunion employees on politics. This precedent could cause sweeping damage to employee rights across America.
“The underlying campaign finance law – known as ‘paycheck protection’ – had been totally ineffective. Because of its fatally narrow definition of what constitutes a political expenditure, it cannot provide meaningful relief to employees forced to pay union dues.
“The real solution is to take away union officials’ special privilege to force employees to pay union dues just to get or keep a job.
“But we cannot allow the Washington court to use this ineffective law as a platform to cause sweeping damage to the First Amendment. If this activist ruling is upheld, even Right to Work laws could come under attack.
“Fortunately, there is a silver lining to this otherwise defensive battle. The Washington Court ruling has presented a major opportunity for the cause of employee freedom.
“National Right to Work Foundation attorneys representing the Petitioning teachers have asked the Justices to correct a problem flowing from a 45 year-old-ruling by this court. In a case that involved union members, this court said 45 years ago that employee ‘dissent is not to be presumed.’ Using this as justification, unions have set up cumbersome opt-out procedures to prevent nonunion members from paying anything less than full union dues.
“But the U.S. Supreme Court can now put a stop to it. National Right to Work attorneys are asking that the Supreme Court take the simple step of clarifying that when employees say no to union membership, they indeed ‘dissent’ from the union!
“This simple clarification – that ‘no’ indeed means ‘no’ – would sweep away the union objection procedures, and nonunion members would be entitled to an automatic reduction in their dues by several hundred dollars. Where employees do not enjoy the protections of a Right to Work law, they could still legally be forced to pay the cost of union bargaining.
“Since there are at least a million nonunion members in America that are forced to pay dues – a ruling on this point would nevertheless be a major breakthrough for employee rights.
“We hope the U.S. Supreme Court gives employees the help that they need in protecting their rights against the tyranny of compulsory unionism.”
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