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
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