NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 7, 2006

The Washington Education Association (WEA) -- the state's teachers union -- is fighting some 4,000 nonmember teachers who don't want their membership dues used for political activities that they don't believe in, says Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal.

At issue is Initiative 134, a 1992 law that requires unions to obtain written approval from teachers before their dues are spent on campaigns or candidates.  But recently, the state Supreme Court reversed the ruling, saying that the paycheck protection law places "too heavy" a burden on the free-speech rights of the union.

But many teachers are wondering where their own free speech protection is, especially when many disagree with the political stances of the unions:

  • Nationally, about one-third of union workers voted Republican in recent elections, but more than 90 percent of the union campaign cash that is forcibly extracted from their checks goes to help elect Democrats.
  • In the year before Initiative 134 was enacted in Washington, 48,000 teachers made "voluntary" contributions, but in the last election cycle that number dwindled to 4,537.
  • In Colorado and Utah, similar rules requiring unions to get affirmative consent from members for political activities led to a 70 percent to 90 percent reduction in dues collections.

The case has now been bumped up to the U.S. Supreme Court, in what could be the most important First Amendment decision in years. At stake is what the First Amendment "right of association" means. What it ought to mean, says Moore, is that both parties voluntarily agree to associate and that Americans have a constitutional right to not associate; not what the unions are fighting for -- coercively collecting from every instructor who stands up in front of a public school classroom.

Source: Stephen Moore, "State of the Unions," Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2006.

For text (subscription required):  


Browse more articles on Government Issues