OLYMPIA -- The state Attorney General's Office filed suit late yesterday against the National 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 NEA violated a state law that bars unions from using non-member fees for political purposes without prior permission.
The NEA collects these fees though its local affiliate, the Washington Education Association (WEA), from individuals who choose not to join the association, but who are still required to pay fees because of the benefit they receive from union representation.
On average, the WEA collects these non-member fees from a yearly average of about 3,700 school employees in Washington.
From 1998 through September, 2000, the NEA made political contributions from accounts that included the fees paid by individuals who chose not to be WEA or NEA members. It did so without express authorization from the non-members.
Earlier this week, the State Public Disclosure Commission referred the case to the AG's office after concluding that it warranted greater penalties than the $2,500 maximum that the PDC could impose.
The allegations in the NEA case are similar to ones made in late 2000 involving the WEA. Those allegations resulted in a $400,000 penalty against the WEA. That case currently is on appeal in the state Court of Appeals in Tacoma.