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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Supreme Court: Unions Cannot Spend Forced Dues for Political Purposes

Ruling affects forced unionism

WASHINGTON, June 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously reversed a novel Washington State Supreme Court ruling that discovered a "constitutional right" for union officials to spend dissenting employees' mandatory dues on political causes they oppose. The ruling merely reinstates an ineffective state campaign finance law that had opened the door for courts to misinterpret the First Amendment.

Today's ruling comes in Davenport v. Washington Education Association (WEA), a case brought by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys for Gary Davenport and more than 4,000 Washington teachers who are not union members, but who are nonetheless forced to pay union dues.

In striking down the Washington High Court ruling, however, the U.S. Supreme Court avoided the more critical and far sweeping question -- whether union officials should be able to automatically collect forced dues for politics from nonunion members in the first place. That clarification, sought by Foundation attorneys would have freed roughly one million nonunion employees nationwide from each having hundreds of dollars in compulsory dues automatically deducted each year. Surprisingly, the U.S. Solicitor General actually supported the union's position on this key question and tried to steer the Justices away from ruling in the employees' favor.

Although pointing out that the court below had "read far too much into our admonition that 'dissent is not to be presumed,'" the High Court did not rule against unions' objection policies used nationwide. Under such policies, employees must do more than simply resign from union membership. In order to reclaim fees spent for politics, union officials often require employees to object every single year.

"America's workers laboring under compulsory unionism are little better off after today's ruling," stated Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. "Rather than promoting more ineffective campaign finance regulations that risk further undermining the First Amendment, sincere reformers should instead turn their attention to attacking the root problem of compulsory unionism. No one should be forced to join or pay dues to a union in the first place."

The Washington State Supreme Court last year struck down the remaining union dues provisions in I-134 (also known as Section 760), Washington's troubled "paycheck protection" campaign finance statute, and in the process created a precedent that union lawyers could have used to attack Right to Work laws across America.

The Davenport case brought into focus how ineffective "paycheck protection" campaign finance laws are in protecting employees laboring under forced unionism. Although upheld by U.S. Supreme Court, I-134 will only result in individual refunds of $10 per year, on average. After the law originally took effect, union officials learned how to collect 60 percent more dues for politics simply by changing their accounting procedures and tweaking the nature of their expenditures.

"Courts reacting to this misguided 'paycheck protection' campaign finance law nearly turned the First Amendment upside down," said Gleason. "Reformers in other states would be wise not to turn down this blind alley."

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting over 200,000 employees in over 200 cases nationwide. Its web site is here.



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