9th Circ. Ct. of Appeals Blocks Unions Fee Demands for Undisclosed Politicking

The Natl. Right to Work Fdtn. announced on Aug. 2 that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that local affiliates of the California Teacher Association (CTA) must provide teachers with an independent verification of how they spend employees’ forced union dues.

With the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the case was brought by San Jose teacher Kim Sheffield, and seven other California teachers, against the CTA and eight of its locals in March 2000. The Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed the U.S. District Court ruling that the locals cannot collect agency fees until they provide an independent verification of how their agency fees were calculated. Without an outside accountant’s verification, non-members cannot determine whether they are being forced to pay for union activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as the union’s political agenda.

“The court’s decision is a small step toward preventing teachers from getting ripped off by union officials,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “For too long, union bosses have gotten away with hiding their use of employees’ forced union dues to support their radical political agenda.”

Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as articulated in the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from teachers who have chosen to refrain from union membership.

According to the constitutional protections construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won decisions of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, the union may only collect compulsory dues that are proven to be spent on collective bargaining activity. Politics, lobbying, organizing, public relations, and other non-bargaining activities are explicitly non-chargeable to employees who have exercised their right to refrain from union membership.

The CTA and its national affiliate the National Education Association (NEA), are two of the most politically active unions in the country. Every year, both organizations seize millions of dollars in compulsory dues to support candidates and causes that many of their members find objectionable. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of rank-and-file union members object to having their dues spent for political activities. [NRTWLDF, 8/2/02]