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1 comments | November 21, 2006 | 11:11 AM | posted by Mike Reitz

Washington Education Association president Charles Hasse has a column in the Seattle PI today--the union's most extensive statement about the cases before the Supreme Court.

For 117 years, the Washington Education Association has been a leader in the political arena for public education. In 1915, for example, WEA backed legislation strengthening certification requirements for teachers. Since the 1920s we've led statewide initiative campaigns for school funding.

Leadership on school funding is fine, but what about student performance?

Hasse boasts the union is the state's top political contributor in 2006.

And, as the Seattle P-I reported last month, the WEA, with its national and local affiliates, was the state's top campaign contributor in the 2006 election cycle. Most notably, we contributed some $900,000 to defeat Initiative 920, the estate tax repeal, thereby preserving $100 million a year for education priorities such as K-12 class-size reduction and access to higher education.

Interestingly, despite its admitted political spending, the WEA annually tells the IRS that it spends no money on politics. Perhaps because it can be taxed on that portion?

Hasse says Washington's affirmative-authorization requirements are "so costly and complex that they threaten one's right to join with others in collective participation in the political process."

As amicus American Legislative Exchange Council says in its brief, asking permission probably does cost the union more than simply seizing money from teachers' paychecks. But that's not a cost savings the First Amendment guarantees.

Furthermore, this case is not about the rights of union members to join together. The question is whether the union can use the fees of teachers who have deliberately resigned from union membership and opted out of union political spending. The union has no right to use their fees for politics.

Whatever the high court decides regarding the constitutionality of Washington's campaign regulations, we are confident the record will show that WEA made scrupulous efforts to fully comply with a seriously flawed law.

This is far from accurate. The WEA admitted to multiple violations after an investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor fined the WEA $590,000 for its violations: “I find that the WEA ‘intentionally’ chose not to comply with the clear language of the statute.” And even before the U.S. Supreme Court the WEA admitted to using nonmember fees for political purposes: “[WEA] political advocacy … is financed almost entirely by members’ dues and only to a very small extent by agency fee moneys.” WEA Brief in Opposition, U.S. Supreme Court, August 14, 2006.

Mr. Hasse says the law the WEA admitted to violating is a "vague and poorly written set of rules." Hardly. The law means what it says:

RCW 42.17.760 - 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.

Hasse also grossly underestimates the impact of the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: "Furthermore, the impact of any decision will be limited to Washington state, where it will pertain to less than 4 percent of the 83,000 educators WEA represents."

The highest court of the land would not have taken the cases if they were to only have a parochial effect. A reversal by the Supreme Court will confirm that states are permitted to adopt regulations that go beyond federal minimums. Additionally, a broad ruling will lay down procedures unions must follow before taking nonmembers' dues for politics.

The WEA hopes for a ruling in its favor.

But if instead the justices determine Washington's campaign rules are constitutional, the matter will be sent back for state courts to sort out narrower technical issues. Either way, WEA trusts the judicial process to finally clarify Washington's murky campaign regulations, thereby allowing educators to exercise our fundamental right to collective participation in the political process.

No one contests the union's right to engage in the political process. But it can only do so with funds obtained voluntarily --just like every other political entity.

Also read the counterpoint by National Right to Work president Mark Mix.

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Blogger tensharp said...

Any chance this will show up in the PI...where it NEEDS to be?

10:12 AM


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