While fines incurred by the Washington Education Association (WEA) and National Education Association (NEA) for violating Washington state campaign laws are the highest in state history, critics say the recent settlement "did not take the opportunity to support and enforce the [state's] paycheck protection laws." The decision may also force union members nationwide to pay for the illegal activity of union leaders.
In 1992, Washington voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative requiring annual employee approval for any payroll deductions used to fund political activity. A subsequent investigation by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), however, found the WEA continued to collect political money through dues payments to the union's Community Outreach Project. EFF also found the union falsified many of its campaign reports, made improper fund transfers and laundered a $410,000 contribution from the NEA to fight two school choice ballot initiatives in 1996.
Under the terms of the settlement with Attorney General Christine Gregoire, the union will pay $430,000 in penalties. Of this sum, $330,000 will be divided and refunded to union members (most likely, the estimated $600 annual dues assessment will drop by $5 per member this year). An additional $100,000 in fines and legal costs to be paid by the WEA and NEA will most likely be paid out of the general union treasury (which is collected from mandatory member assessments).
EFF criticizes the settlement for calling the violations "unintentional" and dismissing all charges related to the illegal collection of dues for political purposes. "The attorney general gutted the initiative," said EFF President Bob Williams. "[I]t now gives labor organizations the right to raid employees' paychecks without consent for political purposes."
The state's settlement does not affect a similar lawsuit against the WEA filed by EFF. An EFF memo points out "our legal action may provide the only opportunity for the court to correct the reinterpretation of the law." The organization is also running commercials critical of the settlement on radio stations statewide.
At the recent California Teachers Association (CTA) "Equality and Human Rights Conference" in Los Angeles, Kevin DeLeon of the National Education Association (NEA) shocked union activists with news that 70% of CTA members support Proposition 226, an initiative on California's June primary ballot to require that labor unions and employers receive annual approval before using employee payroll deductions for state and local political activity.
DeLeon's revelation conflicts with assertions made on the "Defeat Proposition 226" website claiming "three-quarters of all union members - regardless of political affiliation - approve of unions investing time and money in politics." It also indicates organized labor will be forced to mount two separate offensives to oppose Prop 226 - both with their own membership and the general voting public.
As reported by the Education Intelligence Agency, Lee Berg of the NEA's Center for the Revitalization of Urban Education detailed a potential internal campaign for combating Prop 226. Among proposed tactics is the demonization of Prop 226 supporters like California Governor Pete Wilson and insurance executive J. Patrick Rooney, asking union members "Why would your enemies want to help you?" He also proposed that Prop 226 would lead to the passage of school vouchers and tuition tax credit initiatives, warning "we [will] no longer have the ability to control what is taught."
Externally, DeLeon said "we are not going to use the word union" since it would be counterproductive to emphasize Prop 226's perceived negative effects on unions with the majority of California residents who are not union members. So far, organized labor has publicly committed to spend over $10 million to defeat Prop 226.
In the latest poll, conducted by the San Francisco Examiner,
64% of likely voters said they support Proposition 226.
Campaign Finance Factoids Teamster Leaders: Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee
Pro-union literature claims "payroll protection" legislation "makes it virtually impossible [for workers] to participate in the political process." So do union rules, it seems. The Teamsters fined United Parcel Service employee and Teamster member Stephen Beard $10,000 for appearing on CNN criticizing the fact that union members were not allowed to vote on last year's UPS strike. Beard has also been the victim of threats, hate mail and workplace sabotage he and his lawyers attribute to his exercising his right to free speech.
AFL-CIO Leaders Give Secret Testimony About Financial Wrongdoing
Columnist Robert Novak says AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, who publicly refused to testify in the federal probe concerning fraud in the 1996 Teamsters election, gave secret testimony to federal prosecutors in New York City during the last week of February. Novak also reported subpoenas were issued to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe and Clinton confidant Harold Ickes.
Pro- and Anti-Proposition 226 Campaigns on the Internet
Both sides of the Proposition 226 ("Campaign Reform Initiative") election effort are on-line. The "Yes on 226!" campaign, which is supporting "paycheck protection," can be found at www.prop226.com. The union-organized opposition, "Californians to Protect Employee Rights," can be found at www.defeatprop226.org.
(****EDITOR'S NOTE, February 2001: THESE TWO PROPOSITION 226 LINKS NO LONGER WORK.****
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