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0 comments | November 29, 2006 | 11:54 AM | posted by Mike Reitz

Teachers are responding to WEA president Charles Hasse's column in the PI.

Monroe teacher Bruce Gallagher writes:

Charles Hasse's Nov. 21 guest column addresses issues surrounding an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case involving Initiative 134, passed by the people of Washington by a 72 percent majority in 1992.

His claim that "WEA has made scrupulous efforts to fully comply with" I-134 is false. WEA has admitted and has been found guilty of numerous violations of the letter and spirit of the law. In 2000, Gov. Chris Gregoire (then state attorney general) sued the WEA for intentionally ignoring the law. The Thurston County Superior Court imposed a $590,375 fine.

Hasse's opinion and characterization that "it is a vague and poorly written set of rules" apparently gives the WEA the leeway to ignore the law. I-134 states: "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."

What could be clearer? The union cannot use agency fee payers' payments as a carte blanche account to operate political committees without their permission.

Hasse states emphatically: "The WEA, with its national and local affiliates, was the state's top campaign contributor in the 2006 election cycle." For example, he admits the WEA spent "some $900,000 to defeat" the estate tax initiative (I-920).

Hasse admits the WEA functions as an enormous PAC, using agency shop fees to make contributions and expenditures to the state's largest campaign contributor. I-134 says that is illegal without the permission of agency fee payers, but the WEA spins the issue and violates a law it doesn't agree with.

Do you ever wonder where the money comes from to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines the WEA has incurred? From union dues, of course. I hope the Supreme Court deals appropriately with the WEA's tyrannical behavior.

Cindy Omlin, executive director of the Northwest Professional Educators, writes:

Washington Education Association President Charles Hasse characterizes the rule that the union must ask a teacher's permission before using collective bargaining dues for politics "costly and complex" ("Campaign rules need clarification," Nov. 21 guest column). He hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold our state court's decision, which determined that the rule constituted "too heavy an administrative burden" on the union's free speech.

That is preposterous. With no trouble at all, the WEA tracks down teachers to sign them up as union members. With no trouble at all, the union imposes automatic payroll deduction of dues (whether the teacher has joined or not).

With no trouble at all, WEA stuffs teachers' mailboxes with political ads, at home and at school. The WEA is awash with money from forced union dues and plentiful staff to handle its administrative tasks. It is mind-boggling that the WEA can say with a straight face that getting teachers' permission before extracting money from their paychecks for politics is an insurmountable burden.

It's not complex or costly. No one should have money forced out of their paychecks to pay for the politics of someone else. If you want it, ask for it. Charities, businesses and churches have to do that and so should unions.

James Johnson of Kent writes to the King County Journal:

Teachers need control

As a teacher I was once proud to be part of my "professional organization," the WEA, but no more. It has become an entity that only gives the occasional impression of being involved with our state's teachers and their classrooms. Now the union is primarily interested in following its own interests and not the interests of students, teachers and principals.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon be hearing a case that will affect a union's right to take my union dues. This union has admitted to violating state campaign law and was additionally found guilty of breaking that law.

This was not by accident. It was done purposefully. The law states that unions cannot use agency fees for politics. The First Amendment guarantees the individual's right to free speech. The First Amendment does not guarantee the union's free speech rights.

In 1992 the voters of Washington state passed a law requiring unions to have permission to use dues for political purposes. The law is still not in force. I look forward to the day when teachers will wrest control of their union. It is time to focus on teachers' and principals' effectiveness with students in their classrooms.

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