Supreme Court Ruled Unions Can’t Force Non-Members to Pay for Political Activity


We didn’t get an Obamacare ruling today from the Supreme Court, but there was a ruling against the SEIU. Steven Hayward has a pretty simple summary of the case at Powerline.

Knox concerns coercive union dues collected from non-members and used for political purposes.  When dissenting employees brought suit against these dues a few years ago out in California, the SEIU tried to render the case moot by refunding dues to the dissenters.  The Court didn’t buy it.  The first sentence of the Holding is: “This case is not moot.”

According to Fox News, it was a 7-2 decision.

The union, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the annual notice that the union gives was sufficient. The high court disagreed in a 7-2 judgment written by Justice Samuel Alito.

“When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union must provide a fresh … notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent,” Alito said.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with the judgment but wrote their own opinion. “When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment intended to fund solely political lobbying efforts, the First Amendment requires that the union provide non-members an opportunity to opt out of the contribution of funds,” Sotomayor wrote.

But Sotomayor and Ginsburg said they did not join in the majority opinion that the First Amendment requires an opt-in system for other circumstances like “the levying of a special assessment or dues increase.”

About that opt-in opinion from the majority, the left isn’t liking it. I guess they shouldn’t, considering the implications for public sector unions.

It is the Court’s Scott Walker moment. …

That new rule would impose substantial administrative costs on the union, and reduce the amount it collects. But more significantly, the majority’s rationale would seem to apply to all agency payments by non-members. And indeed, language in the opinion suggests that the majority thinks the whole idea of agency fees is a violation of the First Amendment. “[C] compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a ‘significant impingement on First Amendment rights,’” the Court said, quoting an earlier case.  “Our cases to date have tolerated this ‘impingement,’ and we do not revisit today whether the Court’s former cases have given adequate recognition to the critical First Amendment rights at stake.”

The folks at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are happy.

Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work, issued the following statement regarding today’s ruling:

“Today, the United States Supreme Court upheld workers’ First Amendment rights and struck down another union boss scheme to confiscate and spend state workers’ hard earned money for politics without their permission.”

So, we didn’t get our Obamacare ruling, but this is pretty good news.