Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Update on Davenport Union Fees Case

4united_states_supreme_court_112904 To remind everyone, pending before the Supreme is the Davenport case. The question there is whether the State of Washington can prohibit unions from using nonmembers' dues for political purposes unless those nonmembers affirmatively opt-in to allow their dues to be used for such purposes.

Apparently now the State of Washington has passed an amendment to the Washington law which might have a significant impact on the outcome of the case.  From SCOTUSblog:

In a supplemental brief filed Friday, the Respondent informed the Court that on Friday morning, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law a statute that amended Section 760 of the Washington Code to provide that the restricted "use" of agency-feepayer funds covered by the law does not include the simple use of funds from the union's general treasury just because because that commingles agency feepayers' money with union members’ dues. The amendment reads in full as follows:

A labor organization does not use agency shop fees when it uses its general treasury funds to make such contributions or expenditures if it has sufficient revenues from sources other than agency shop fees in its general treasury to fund such contributions or expenditures.

As so amended, the statute does not raise the constitutional problems that were the basis of the Respondent's challenge and the state court's decision. Indeed, the union had urged the state courts to adopt that very interpretation of the law in the first instance, in order to avoid the constitutional question.

Marty Lederman, the author of the SCOTUSblog concludes:

[T]here no longer appears to be a cert.-worthy question of prospective importance in the case, which might cause some Justices to consider whether the Court should vacate the judgment and remand the case to the state courts for reconsideration of the plaintiffs' claims in light of the statutory amendment.

Because according to my previous analysis it was likely that the union would have lost this case, this seems to signal good news for the labor movement in Washington.



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perhaps you meant the labor movement everywhere. Am I wrong to suspect that a negative ruling would broadly affect public unions and perhaps alter the basic scheme of Beck rights for those who oppose the "political" expenditures of unions -- even non-public ones? That's what I'd fear.

Posted by: eli | May 15, 2007 12:09:23 PM

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