Olympia - October 9, 2000 - The state Attorney General’s Office today filed suit against the Washington Education Association for illegally using fees paid to it by non-members for political purposes.
The suit, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, alleges that the WEA violated a state law that bars unions from using non-member fees for political purposes without prior permission. The WEA collects these fees from individuals who choose not to join the association, but still benefit from union representation and negotiation.
The lawsuit is aimed at enforcing the law on behalf of the citizens of Washington and is not intended to recover fees paid by individuals to the WEA.
In August, the Public Disclosure Commission investigated a complaint from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation concerning the WEA’s use of non-member fees for political purposes. The WEA has since agreed with the PDC’s findings that it violated the statute because it did not have approval from the non-member fee payers to use their money for political contributions.
In late September, the PDC referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office after concluding that the maximum $2,500 fine it is authorized by law to impose was not sufficient to address the violations committed. The AG’s Office is authorized to seek a maximum penalty of $10,000 for each violation.
The union currently represents approximately 68,000 public school employees in Washington state, including more than 4,400 non-members who pay fees. These fees are deposited in the WEA’s general treasury, from which the association draws funds for political contributions.
In its suit, the AG’s Office is asking the court for civil penalties, injunctive relief, investigation costs, and reasonable attorney fees.