Teachers Union Settles Suit on Political Fees

By Mark Walsh — April 08, 2010 1 min read
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A Washington State teachers union has agreed to settle the last remnant of a long-running legal battle over non-member “agency” fees that improperly went for political purposes.

The Washington Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, will pay $225,000 to a group of teachers and school district staff members who refused to join the union but must, nevertheless, must pay the agency fees.

At issue was the portion of the fees that went for political purposes in violation of a state law that requires public-employee unions to get non-members’ permission before using any of their agency fees on political activities. (Not at issue was the portion of such fees that go for union activities related to collective bargaining, which the non-members properly must pay.)

The controversy goes back to 2000, when the Evergreen Freedom Foundation filed a complaint with the state that the WEA was violating the affirmative-authorization law. This led to a lawsuit by the state in which the union admitted to violations. Separately, the group of non-union education employees sued the WEA to recover the portion of their agency fees that went for political purposes.

The latter case went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2007 in Davenport v. Washington Education Association that the state law requiring affirmative authorization did not violate the union’s First Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court decision did not totally resolve the cases, however. In December, the WEA agreed to settle the state’s case for $735,000.

And this week, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation announced that the WEA had agreed to settle the suit filed on behalf of the non-union employees by the EFF and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

The union didn’t return a call seeking comment, but the EFF provided a copy of the settlement agreement signed by the WEA’s attorney.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.