Supreme Court Upholds State Law on Use of Union Dues

Posted June 14, 2007 at 11:20am

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the constitutionality of a Washington state campaign finance law that restricts unions from using the dues of some members for political and lobbying purposes.

“It does not violate the First Amendment for a state to require its public-sector unions to receive affirmative authorization from a nonmember before spending that nonmember’s agency fees for election-related purposes,” the court unanimously held in Davenport v. Washington Education Association.

Lawyers for the state and former public school employees argued before the high court in January that the court should reinstate the law, which was blocked by the Washington Supreme Court last year.

The law prohibited the use for political purposes of fees paid by some teachers and other public employees who are represented by unions in labor negotiations but are not required by state laws to formally join the unions.

The decision is a defensive victory for the anti-union movement, which is attempting to reinforce laws that limit compulsory union membership. The National Right to Work Foundation, an anti-union group, represented the five Washington state teachers in the case.

“If the union has a right to collect dues for political purposes,” a spokesman for the foundation told Roll Call in January, “then that could be potential fodder for a fight against ‘right-to-work’ laws down the road.”

— Matthew Murray