In America, citizens instinctively detest the notion of forcing people to pay for politics with which they disagree. But in the midst of the 2006 election cycle, Big Labor is fighting tooth-and-nail against even the most modest attempt to limit its special privilege to spend workers’ forced union dues on politics.
Just recently, a group of Washington State teachers, receiving free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an appeal of a ruling that voided a so-called “paycheck protection” statute. That law intended to require government employee union officials to obtain prior consent from non-union workers before spending their mandatory union dues on politics.
Predictably, once news of review by the U.S. Supreme Court surfaced, Washington Education Association (WEA) union officials publicly downplayed the importance of the case. But, if a successful appeal does no more than uphold Washington's paycheck protection law, their indifference wouldn't necessarily be misplaced.
Sadly, ten years of experience shows that the well-intentioned Washington law has proven ineffective in truly protecting employees from the misuse of their forced union dues. By reorganizing their accounting practices, WEA union officials were actually able to collect and spend more money on politics after the statute took effect. The fact is, so long as federal labor law – and the laws of many states, including Washington – are steeply stacked in favor of Big Labor bosses, returning to the status quo will not suddenly level the playing field for rank-and-file workers.
Washington state's paycheck protection law has tried but has not limited the ill-effects of forced unionism. Attempting to regulate away the consequences of bad public policy is the wrong approach. Even if the statute had achieved its intended impact, employees would have only received $25 back per year because most of the union's political expenditures fall outside the law's narrow definition of politics.
The misguided Washington State Supreme Court ruling is being challenged, because in striking down the paycheck protection regulation, that court inexplicably fabricated a constitutional “right” for union officials to spend the forced dues of employees who want nothing to do with the union on political campaigns those workers may not support. Moreover, if upheld, union officials will use this wrongheaded decision to threaten America's 22 Right to Work states.
Twelve million American employees are forced by federal or state law to pay union dues or be fired from their jobs. In a string of long-standing precedents won by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, the High Court has ruled union officials must tell workers forced to pay union dues what portion of the dues is spent on politics and other non-collective bargaining activities, and offer them a refund for that amount.
Real life is not that simple. In the vast majority of situations, union officials illegally inform workers upon employment that they must join the union and pay full dues or be fired.
Later on, some employees may learn they have been misled and that they have the right to resign from formal membership.
However, when workers seek to exercise their right to resign, union officials often illegally tell them they have to wait for a certain “window” period and force non-union employees to re-object to non-collective bargaining fees every single year.
On top of all this, many union hierarchies routinely “cook the books” and charge independent-minded non-members for activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
The National Right to Work Foundation, which provides free legal aid to thousands of employees nationwide whose rights have been violated by compulsory unionism, works to battle these very injustices every day.
The Washington State experience demonstrates once again that the real solution is to take away Big Labor's outrageous special privilege to seize forced union dues in the first place. Aside from being a proven fix, Right to Work is a simple concept that polls show eight in ten Americans support: that payment of union dues should be voluntary.
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