Education A State Capitals Roundup

Court Overturns Law on Idaho Union Dues

By Vaishali Honawar — December 13, 2005 1 min read

A federal judge has ruled unconstitutional an Idaho law that bars automatic deductions from state workers’ paychecks for union political activity, handing a major victory to the Idaho Education Association, which was a party to the lawsuit.

The state’s Voluntary Contribution Act, passed in 2003, required unions to get written permission from members to use any of the dues they collected through automatic deductions for political activities.

But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, in Boise, said in a decision made public Nov. 30 that the automatic deductions could stay in place if the union agrees to cover the costs.

Sherri Wood, the president of the 11,900-member Idaho Education Association, pointed out that membership in the union is voluntary. “Idaho is a right-to-work state,” she said, adding that members can ask for refunds of the portion of their dues spent on political activities.

But Sen. Brad Little, a Republican who strongly supports the law, said he would study the ruling carefully to consider ways to fight it. He maintained that union members have no control over which political candidates their unions support, or which activities they fund.

“I want to make the hurdle [for automatic deductions] a little higher,” he said.