Slow Learners

Union financial capers


In December a Washington state Superior Court judge schooled the Washington Education Association (WEA), the state's largest teachers union, on the nuances of labor law, handing it a $770,000 bill for the lesson.

The union, a potent force in Evergreen State politics, had been paying for political escapades with money collected from "agency fee payers." Agency fee payers are individuals who choose not to join the union. They don't have voting rights but are still forced to pay for the portion of union activity spent on contract negotiation and enforcement.

From 1996 to 2000, the WEA charged 8,000 dissidents 100 percent of dues and then proceeded to spend some of the money on politics. "WEA intentionally chose not to comply with the law," ruled Judge Gary R. Tabor, who fined the union $400,000 and ordered it to hand the state $190,375 for attorney fees. It also had to refund $180,000 to the teachers who didn't want their money spent on politics.

Tabor's decision marks the second time in three years the WEA has been fined for playing politics with ill-gotten money. In 1998 the union was fined $430,000 for illegal activity in its campaign against charter schools and voucher initiatives two years earlier.

"It shows the unions care more about political power than the rights of their members," says Evergreen Freedom Foundation President Bob Williams, who has been dogging the union for years. "They need remedial learning."