SEATTLE, Wash. (March 19, 2001) — National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are filing a class-action lawsuit against the Washington Education Association (WEA) union seeking to reclaim money illegally seized from the paychecks of more than 4,200 teachers to advance the union’s political agenda.
Foundation attorneys filed the class-action lawsuit, Davenport v. WEA, in the Superior Court of the State of Washington in and for the County of Thurston on behalf of teachers who are not union members (but who must still pay agency fees) after WEA union officials illegally seized fees without authorization in violation of Washington’s so-called “paycheck protection” law (Initiative 134).
Since the non-member teachers had not exercised their right to reclaim about $175 (per teacher per year) under a recent Foundation-won court settlement against the WEA union, they are only entitled to reclaim about $10 (per year over five years) attributed to “political activities” under the narrow definition in the mis-named “paycheck protection” law.
The suit asks that about $200,000 in illegally seized fees be returned to the teachers.
“Because flimsy ‘paycheck protection’ laws like this one are so fatally flawed, teachers relying on the law have received little protection of their rights not to fund union electioneering and the like,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “However, the Foundation took the case anyway because we always do everything possible under the law to help victims of forced unionism abuse.”
Initiative 134 was intended to prevent union officials from spending government workers’ money for politics without prior authorization. After passage of that law, union officials easily sidestepped the law’s narrow and toothless requirements. Last September, Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) determined that WEA union officials had not secured authorization from nonmembers for the forced union dues spent on the tiny fraction of union political activity actually regulated by the law. Washington’s Attorney General now seeks unspecified sanctions against the WEA union, but is seeking absolutely no damages for the teachers whose rights were violated.
Foundation attorneys have already won a settlement for Washington teachers in Leer v. WEA. Under Leer, about 300 teachers annually reclaim more than $175 each in forced union dues that had been seized by WEA union officials for politics, lobbying, organizing, and other non-bargaining activities. Unlike the flawed Initiative 134, Leer attacked the very basis of forced union dues on constitutional grounds.
However, most non-member teachers have not yet exercised their rights under Leer and have thus been paying nearly full dues to the WEA labor union – even money that the PDC found required affirmative authorization. The more than 4,200 teachers in Davenport were never asked for authorization, so they are seeking a full rebate, plus interest, of the amount that was seized illegally from their paychecks. Teachers are also seeking an injunction prohibiting WEA officials from seizing forced union dues used for influencing elections and supporting political committees without affirmative consent from non-member teachers.
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, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.