Teacher's union settles suit over using fees for political purposes

Under the terms of the settlement, the NEA does not admit any violation.

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OLYMPIA - An eight-year-old lawsuit that alleged the National Education Association illegally used fees paid by non-members has been settled.

In a release, state Attorney General Rob McKenna said the NEA has agreed to pay a total of $85,000 in fines and fees under a settlement entered Friday in Thurston County Superior Court. The suit was filed in October 2002 by McKenna's office, which was joined in the action by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

The suit followed a similar action against the Washington Education Association. The suit involving the NEA alleged the group violated a state law barring unions from using non-member fees for political purposes without permission.

Under the terms of the settlement, the NEA does not admit any violation, McKenna said. The parties agreed to the settlement "to resolve the dispute between them without the expense and uncertainty of continued litigation."

The NEA will pay $50,000 in civil penalties to the state of Washington and $35,000 attorney fees and costs to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

The suit took eight years to settle because the case was stayed pending the outcome of the lawsuit involving the Washington Education Association, said Janelle Guthrie, communications director for the attorney general's office.

The WEA case went to the United States Supreme Court and was decided in June 2007 when the court ruled unanimously to uphold a state initiative requiring unions to obtain prior permission from non-members before using their representation fees for political purposes.

According to the attorney general's office, the NEA collected the non-member fees through the WEA from individuals who chose not to join the association but were still required to pay fees because of the benefit they received from union representation.

The lawsuit alleged that from 1998 through September of 2000, the NEA made political contributions from accounts that included the fees paid by individuals who chose not to be WEA or NEA members and did so without express authorization from the non-members.

On the net

A copy of the stipulation and judgment of the lawsuit involving the state Attorney General’s Office and the National Education Association can be downloaded from the attorney general’s Web site at www.atg.wa.gov/

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