The 9-0 slapdown of the Washington Supreme Court by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday in Davenport v. Washington Education Association...
The 9-0 slapdown of the Washington Supreme Court by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday in Davenport v. Washington Education Association is evidence that our state court has been too deferential to political interests — in this case, unions.
Under federal labor law, employees can resign from a union but still be represented by it. The union can charge them an “agency-shop fee” for representing them but it cannot charge them for political campaigns without their permission. The argument was about how to get that permission. Our rule had been passed as a ballot initiative in 1992 with a 73 percent yes vote of the people of Washington. Under that law, the union could not use nonmembers’ money for politics “unless affirmatively authorized by the individual.” That is, the nonmember had to opt in, else the WEA could not use his money for politics. The WEA argued that it should be able to use the nonmember’s money unless he opted out by filling out forms twice a year.
In 2006, the Washington Supreme Court agreed with the union. In a 6-3 ruling (supported by justices Bobbe Bridge, Tom Chambers, Faith Ireland, Charles Johnson, Barbara Madsen and Susan Owens) the Washington court said having to ask each nonmember for permission was so much of a burden on the union that it violated its right of free speech.
This was an amazing argument, because it was not about the union’s right to use its members’ money for political speech. It was about using nonmembers money — people who had already taken pains to resign.
Thursday’s ruling says, in effect, that respecting workers’ rights may be a burden, but that’s just too bad.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for all his colleagues, including the court’s liberals, dismissed “the mistaken rationale of the Supreme Court of Washington” by saying the money, and the rights, belong to the worker.