Education Letter to the Editor

‘Paycheck Protection’ Laws Are No Bar to Union Politics

June 29, 2007 2 min read

To the Editor:

Education Week mistakenly claimed in an article about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Davenport v. Washington Education Association decision that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has made a “push to pass [‘paycheck protection’] measures across the country over the years” (“High Court Upholds Wash. State Law on Union Fees,” June 20, 2007). We have never endorsed or advocated these ineffective campaign-finance laws, and the Davenport case demonstrates exactly why they offer no hope of stopping union officials from playing politics with nonunion workers’ forced dues.

Washington state’s misguided “paycheck protection” law opened the door for an activist state court to twist the First Amendment and transform it into a weapon to be used against employees. Meanwhile, 10 years of experience shows that the law doesn’t even work.

Washington state’s “paycheck protection” law contains fundamental flaws because it is merely a campaign-finance regulation that regulates a tiny sliver of union political activity at the state and local levels. Once it passed, union officials simply adjusted their accounting methods, tweaked their spending practices, and continued business as usual. In fact, independent analyses of the teachers’ union’s finances shortly after the “paycheck protection” law took effect showed that union officials spent 60 percent more dues money on politics. The spending has continued to balloon ever since.

In the wake of the Davenport ruling, advocates of expanding employee free choice would be well advised not to turn down the blind alley of “paycheck protection.”

The real solution is to eliminate, not regulate, forced unionism. Only by passing a right-to-work law that would make union affiliation and dues payment strictly voluntary can states like Washington truly protect their hardworking employees.

Justin Hakes

Legal Information Director

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

Springfield, Va.

To the Editor:

The decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the recent union-fees case underscores the continuing struggle between labor unions and the teachers they claim to represent. Although the law in many states supports forced union dues, it does not support forced politics, despite the time and expense the Washington Education Association spent engaging in an arduous legal battle to curb the rights of a handful of educators. Over the course of this litigation, the union has shown it is more dedicated to supporting the causes of “big labor” and its own political agenda than representing teachers and improving education.

The unanimous call down from the court sends a clear message that unions do not have the unconditional power they have presumed to possess. While the WEA will do whatever it takes to gain power and bend politics to serve its own interests, the rest of us simply want a good education for our children. We deserve better.

Gary Beckner

Executive Director

Association of American Educators

Mission Viejo, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the July 18, 2007 edition of Education Week