The California Teachers Association (CTA), the state's largest teachers' labor union, can no longer prevent members from resigning from the union or requesting a refund of the portion of their mandatory dues spent for political purposes under the settlement terms of a class-action lawsuit.
"California's teacher union officials have feared this moment for decades: a time when teachers can free themselves from the union's grasp without obstruction," said Stefan Gleason of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the organization that filed the lawsuit.
Teacher Judith Apple of San Diego tried to resign from the union because she disagreed with its political activities, but was told she would have to continue as a full member and pay full dues until her affiliate's bargaining contract expired in July of 1998. With foundation assistance, Apple filed suit in November of 1996, charging her compulsory union membership violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The settlement eliminates compulsory membership requirements from contracts, accepts all current and past resignation requests and mandates the rebate of all dues money not spent on collective bargaining, contract negotiation and grievances to all members who request it. Refunds are expected to total approximately $200 a year. The settlement affects all 250,000 CTA members.
"[T]eacher union officials diverted over 95% of teacher's compulsory union dues spent on politics into subsidizing the partisan interests of a single, narrow ideological group," said Gleason. "But now - with this federal court settlement - California's educators can no longer be forced along for the ride."
Washington state's Public Disclosure Commission unanimously voted on December 11th to fine Washington Education Association (WEA) Executive Director James Seibert $6,000 for covering up the fact that the National Education Association (NEA) actually pays his salary. The WEA is the state affiliate of the NEA, and Seibert runs the labor union affiliate's political activities.
In 1992, Washington voters passed Initiative 134, requiring the teachers union to obtain annual written approval from each member to use compulsory dues for political purposes. As a result, members paying for the union's political activities fell from 45,000 to 8,000.
The NEA paid Seibert's salary for at least eight years, and he was found to have falsely reported his true employer on 106 public disclosure forms. Because of a statute of limitations, however, he will only be fined for the 60 violations occurring over the last five years. It is unclear whether Seibert will pay the fine personally, or if it will come from union funds.
The Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), which uncovered Seibert's misrepresentation, also found other WEA/NEA violations that have been referred to Attorney General Christine Gregoire. Among them is the creation of a new system for assessing political dues from members and the WEA's laundering of over $400,000 in NEA money to influence the 1996 elections (where state ballot initiatives for school choice and charter schools were defeated). Last August, information obtained by EFF led to a fine similar to Seibert's being levied against a WEA lobbyist.
The Washington state Attorney General filed suit against the union last June for violating Initiative 134.
Campaign Finance Factoids Political Choice Initiative Qualifies for California Ballot
California Secretary of State Bill Jones announced on December 23rd that the "Campaign Reform Initiative" (CRI) had qualified for the state's June 1998 ballot. The CRI would prohibit employer or labor union-mandated payroll deductions for state or local political activity unless prior approval is given on an annual basis by affected employees. It also bans foreign contributions to state and local political campaigns. A recent Field Poll found 72% of eligible California voters surveyed support the CRI.
Bank Robber Says Campaign Laws Led Him to Life of Crime
Defeated last November and faced with losing his state lottery job, outgoing Upper Darby, Pennsylvania Mayor Daniel Devlin robbed a local bank. He walked out with $1,500, but was quickly arrested. Upon arraignment, he tried to put his actions in perspective by citing national campaign finance scandals. "Look at the Democrats," said the Republican Devlin. "They steal millions, and Reno won't even appoint a special prosecutor." Remarking on the incident, conservative commentator Paul Weyrich jokingly endorsed Devlin's defense, saying, "I sort of like this idea of politicians stealing directly. . . That is much more efficient than the current system, where we are stolen from but never have the chance to convict the criminals."
Political Money Monitor is published by The National Center for Public Policy Research to provide information on campaign finance and political choice issues. Coverage of an event or article in Political Money Monitor does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Copyright 1998 The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints of articles in Political Money Monitor are permitted provided source is credited. ###
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