Friday, June 15, 2007

Teachers' free speech trumps union politics

Once in a while, the Supreme Court gets one right. From WND:
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision that could impact millions of public-sector employees nationwide, concluded today the First Amendment right of teachers trumps the speech privileges of organized labor.

The decision, in the consolidated Washington vs. Washington Education Association and Davenport vs. WEA cases, found organized labor, such as teachers associations, have no "constitutional right" to use money collected as "agency fees" from nonmembers for political purposes.

"We are elated that the U.S. Supreme Court has honored the First Amendment rights of teachers by overturning the state Supreme Court's decision," said Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, which has worked on the case for a decade. "The court understood that the constitutional rights of teachers should be protected and are not superseded by the union's statutory rights.

"This ruling will help protect non-member teachers from having their agency fees used on union politics against their will," he said.

Booker Stallworth, communications director for the foundation, told WND the case originated with a list of teachers who had a variety of complaints about the Washington Education Association's dedication of its financial resources to help causes to which the teachers objected, including homosexual marriage and abortion issues.

Some of the teachers appreciate collective bargaining but don't like union politics," he told WND. "Some of the teachers are pro-life, some are against homosexual marriage. For a number of reasons they preferred to not have the union speak for them politically and have their own dollars used against them."

Diane Lenning, an English and history teacher, said, "My major objections to the NEA are that there is an operative glass ceiling for moderate and conservative Republicans, independents and Christians."

Added Cindy Omlin, a speech pathologist. "There were many political causes that they were funneling my union dues toward that I found to be very offensive."

"I wanted to be congruent with my beliefs," said Karen Petty, another instructor. "My dues were going to causes that personally I would go against."

The case focused on a Washington initiative, approved by voters, that required labor organizations to get permission from nonmember workers before using mandatory dues for political purposes.

In many cases, workers are not required to be union members but must pay a fee equivalent to union dues because they are the beneficiaries of collective bargaining.

Unions, however, are increasingly active politically, and many times support causes such as homosexual marriage and the abortion industry under the guise of "rights" -- issues Christians and others would choose not to back.

WEA had admitted to multiple violations of the Washington law during an investigation then was fined more than $590,000 for its actions. However, on appeal, the Washington state Supreme Court concluded the "free speech rights" of the union superseded the First Amendment rights of the individuals.

"The agency-fee cases did not balance constitutional rights in such a manner, because unions have no constitutional entitlement to nonmember-employees' fees," the U.S. Supreme Court countered. "For First Amendment purposes, it is immaterial that [state law] restricts a union's use of funds only after they are within the union's possession. The fees are in the union's possession only because Washington and its union-contracting government agencies have compelled their employees to pay those fees."

"As applied, … [Washington state law] is not fairly described as a restriction on how the union can spend 'its' money; it is a condition placed upon the union's extraordinary state entitlement to acquire and spend other people's money," the Supreme Court said.

"The next step is to make sure the law is strongly enforced … to ensure the WEA and other unions are in compliance," Williams said. "The WEA has been busily attempting to undermine the law while it was under Supreme Court review." ...

This is good news for teachers everywhere who object to their unions spending their dues on grotesque liberal policies and agendas.

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