NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teachers' Unions Fighting, And Losing, Political Dues Issue

April 29, 1999

Teachers in California and Washington state are chalking up victories in efforts to keep their union dues from being used for political activities of which they disapprove.

  • In response to a suit by 700 California teachers, U.S. District Judge Charles Legge this week ordered a halt to the collection of all dues by unions in eight San Francisco Bay Area school districts.
  • Under the terms of the Supreme Court's 1988 Beck decision, Judge Legge ruled that the unions avoided their legal obligation to provide audited statements and that school districts didn't protect teachers' rights before deducting dues from their paychecks.
  • The National Right to Work Foundation believes this precedent could spread to the rest of California within months and that accurate audits could result in rebated fees of $350 a year per teacher.

Observers suspect the California unions cannot afford to comply with such an order. At least it might slow down their efforts to hamstring charter schools. One union-backed bill which has already passed the Assembly Education Committee would mandate collective bargaining at all charter schools -- something that isn't even required in traditional public schools.

Meanwhile, in Washington state last month, a local judge fined the state teachers' union $15,000 for failing to disclose the union's political activities in a lawsuit filed by the Evergreen Legal Foundation -- a sum which came on top of a $430,000 settlement against the union last year, based on allegations of campaign finance violations.

About 40 percent of teachers vote Republican, but 99 percent of their union political contributions go to the Democratic Party. While the Beck decision was passed in 1988, Bill Clinton's first executive order in 1993 abolished rules notifying workers of their Beck rights.

Source: Editorial, "Victory for Teachers," Wall Street Journal, April 29, 1999.


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