In 1992, voters in Washington State approved Initiative 134 by nearly 73 percent, thereby requiring that agency fee payers individually authorize the union to use their dues for politics.
Despite the clear wording of the law, the Washington Education Association continued to spend dues on politics without asking for permission. After hearing from a number of teachers, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation filed a complaint against the WEA in 2000.
After an investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission, the WEA admitted to “multiple violations” of the law, and Attorney General Christine Gregoire filed a lawsuit against the union in October 9, 2000. Ruling that the WEA “intentionally” ignored the law, Thurston County Superior Court imposed a $590,375 penalty on the union July 31, 2001.
The WEA appealed the case to Washington’s Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 ruling on June 24, 2003, the court ruled that portions of I-134 violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, saying the First Amendment free speech rights of union official supersedes the First Amendment free speech rights of teachers.
On appeal to the state Supreme Court, the WEA again argued the law was unconstitutional, and the Court agreed. Former Justice Faith Ireland wrote that requiring unions to ask permission before spending nonmember dues on political activity was “too heavy an administrative burden.”
In the meantime, several teachers, represented by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, filed a class action lawsuit against the WEA to recover their misspent dues (Davenport v. WEA). This case was consolidated with the state’s case against the union and dismissed by the Washington Supreme Court. Both cases are being appealed.
U.S. Supreme Court cases
Washington v. Washington Education Association, No. 05-1657
Davenport, et al, v. Washington Education Association, No. 05-1589
The consolidated state case:
Washington State Supreme Court No. 74268-5 - State ex rel. Public Disclosure Commission v. Washington Education Association
Washington State Supreme Court No. 74316-9 - Gary Davenport, et al., v. Washington State Education Association
RCW 42.17.760 - Agency shop fees as contributions.
A labor organization may not use agency shop fees paid by an individual who is not a member of the organization to make contributions or expenditures to influence an election or to operate a political committee, unless affirmatively authorized by the individual.