Justices reject WEA
Published: June 15th, 2007 01:00 AM
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Washington’s voter-approved campaign finance law in a long-running case involving the state teachers union’s political use of fees paid by nonmembers.
The ruling, handed down Thursday, reverses a finding by the state Supreme Court that had struck down provisions of Initiative 134 on grounds that the law interfered with the free-speech rights of a union.
“Now the case goes back to the state Supreme Court. So it’s not as if it’s over,” said Charles Hasse, president of the 80,000-member Washington Education Association.
Still to be addressed in the state courts is whether to set aside or reinstate a Thurston County judge’s finding six years ago that the WEA must pay roughly $590,000 in fines and legal fees.
”They definitely are going to be held accountable for past violations of the law,” said Mike Reitz of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a conservative Olympia think tank that initiated the complaints and lawsuits against the WEA over its spending of dues.
“It’s a victory for the state, the (nonmember) teachers and for EFF,” Reitz said.
The high court overturned the state court’s ruling, and said the laws requiring unions to get permission first before spending union dues on politics are constitutional.
The WEA all along insisted it never spent nonmember shop fees on political campaigns – in this case the class size and teacher pay initiatives of 2000.
A key issue in the case has been whether the WEA could spend money from its general treasury, which co-mingles payments of dues and shop fees – even if the amounts spent on campaigns were small enough that no shop fees would have been touched.
The Thurston County judge found that once funds were co-mingled, no distinction could be drawn. That meant the WEA violated the law.
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