Teaching Profession

Union Fees’ Use Again at Issue

By Jessica L. Tonn — February 27, 2007 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Is the Washington state legislature trying to enact a law that would insulate its teachers’ union friends if a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision goes against them? Or is it merely trying to clarify existing law?

Depends on whom you ask.

Five nonunion teachers and the state department of education sued the union in 2000, for allegedly violating the state law that requires nonunion members to opt in before the Washington Education Association can use their fees for political activities. The case, which addresses whether the “opt-in” statute violates the union’s First Amendment rights, was argued before the high court last month. (“Court Hears Case on Use of Fees by Teachers’ Union,” Jan. 17, 2007.)

Supporters of a proposed bill, including the WEA, argue that the legislation is meant to illustrate how unions already are allowed to fund political activities.

The current law prohibits unions from using a nonunion employee’s “agency shop” fees—which the state allows the 80,000-member teachers’ union to deduct from all public education employees’ paychecks to support activities, such as collective bargaining, from which they benefit—for political campaigns and activism “unless affirmatively authorized by the individual.”

The proposed bill would amend that law to say that a union is not using nonmember money for political purposes “if it has sufficient revenues from sources other than agency shop fees in its general treasury to fund such contributions or expenditures.”

But the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, an Olympia, Wash.-based think tank that has taken the WEA to court in the past, characterizes the measure as an “accounting gimmick” meant to sidestep a high court ruling, expected later this term.

The proposed changes have no bearing on the Supreme Court case, the bill’s authors maintain.

“This addition to the existing statute in no way changes, or even makes more palatable to the [high court], the First Amendment issue being argued before them,” Joe McDermott, the bill’s sponsor, told colleagues during a committee hearing on the legislation last week.

Assistant State Attorney General D. Thomas Wendel told lawmakers at the hearing that although the proposed amendment wouldn’t directly affect the pending legal challenge, “whether it would diminish the high court’s interest in deciding this [case] is another question.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2007 edition of Education Week

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion ‘A Culture of Care’: How Schools Can Alleviate Educator Stress This Year
It takes more than deep breathing to alleviate the stress teachers feel. Here's how to get to the root cause.
Sean Slade & Alyssa Gallagher
6 min read
shutterstock 740616958 resized
Teaching Profession Reported Essay Students Aren’t the Only Ones Grieving
Faced with so many losses stemming from the pandemic, what can be done to help teachers manage their own grief?
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read