Saturday, January 13, 2007

U.S. Supremes on Labor Union Dues for Political Activities

Education Week's Trotter was a guest this morning on C-Span. Discussion focused on labor unions and a Supreme Court case to be decided...

January 10, 2007 Justices Weigh Cases on Teachers' Union Fees, Federal Impact Aid
By Andrew Trotter and Jessica L. Tonn

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case testing the constitutionality of a Washington state law that requires non-union teachers to “affirmatively consent,” or opt in, before a teachers’ union may spend money from “agency fees” on political campaigns and similar activism.

Five non-union teachers and the state of Washington sued the Washington Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, for allegedly violating the state law, resulting in two appeals that have been consolidated by the high court, Davenport v. Washington Education Association and Washington v. Washington Education Association (Case Nos. 05-1589 and 05-1657).

It was one of two education-related cases the justices heard today. The other dealt with the federal Impact Aid Act and how it is carried out in the states.

The teachers’ union only ends its political use of a nonunion teacher’s agency fees when the teacher sends a letter opting out of such use. State law authorizes the agency fees, which cover the costs of collective bargaining activities from which even non-union members benefit. The Washington Supreme Court, the state’s highest court, ruled last year that the opt-in provision in the law, passed by voter initiative as part of a 1992 campaign integrity law, places an impermissible burden on the union’s First Amendment free-speech rights.

But in arguments today, the question that seemed especially to bother the justices was why the union should presume to speak politically for teachers who have chosen not to join its ranks...

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Union Fees
By Vaishali Honawar

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to take up the issue of when a teachers’ union may spend the money it collects in the form of “agency fees” from nonmembers on political causes.

The justices said they would review a Washington state law that requires nonmembers to “affirmatively consent,” or opt in, before a union may spend money from such fees on political campaigns and similar activism. A decision by the high court upholding the law could give ammunition to union critics to push for similar restrictions on union clout in other states.

On another education front, the court also agreed to take up a case involving the federal impact-aid statute and when states may reduce their funding to districts with large federal land holdings or installations by the same amount of aid provided by the federal government.

The court announced Sept. 26 that it would add the two cases to its docket for the term that was set to begin officially on Oct. 2. The justices had already accepted two major school cases, both dealing with the use of race as a factor in assigning students to schools, for this term.

In the teachers’ union case, the high court accepted appeals from the state of Washington and five nonunion workers of a ruling by the state supreme court that struck down the consent provision as a violation of the Washington Education Association’s First Amendment rights of free speech and association. The union and its opponents have jousted for years over the rules for political spending by the WEA.

The appeals in Washington v. Washington Education Association and Davenport v. Washington Education Association (Cases No. 05-1589 and 05-1687) involve fees paid by workers who choose not to join the union but who benefit from the collective bargaining process. Unions collect what is called an agency fee from such workers.

Under a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, states that allow unions to collect agency fees from nonmembers are required to give them the opportunity to opt out of having their fees used for political purposes...

Union Membership in 2000:
Numbers Decline During Record Economic Expansion
By: Rich Reinhold

Union membership in the U.S. decreased in 2000 even as the national economy continued to grow and the unemployment rate reached 30-year lows. Despite the recent good economic times, the union membership levels were lower in 2000 then they were during the recession of the early 1990s, suggesting that most of the jobs created during the economic expansion were non-union. In the past ten years, the number of employed workers in unions fell by about 482,000, while the percentage of employed workers in unions dropped from 16 percent to 13.5 percent (see table below).

Labor's Divisions Widen As Membership Declines
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 7, 2005; Page A02

LAS VEGAS -- AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney last week won the latest round in a bitter internal clash over the future of the labor movement by insisting that more money go for future campaigns to unseat Republicans than for trying to shore up the federation's sagging membership.

That showdown pitted Sweeney, AFSCME's Gerald McEntee and the Steelworkers' Leo Gerard against such powerhouse dissidents as the Teamsters' James P. Hoffa, the Service Employees' Andrew L. Stern and the Laborers' Terence M. O'Sullivan

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