Thursday, June 14, 2007

Supreme Court Says States Can Require Unions To Obtain Consent From Workers Before Funding Politics

Washington, DC - The United States Supreme Court ruled today that states can require labor unions to obtain consent before spending mandatory fees collected from nonmembers for election-related purposes. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the unanimous opinion in the case of Davenport v. Washington Education Association.
The Court held that because a public-employee union collects the nonmember funds only with the affirmative approval of the State of Washington, the state can place a condition on the collection of funds from state employees who are not members of the union.
Traditionally, the burden has been put on workers to object to the union's spending. Workers have a First Amendment right to object to political spending, entitling them to a refund of a portion of their dues. A Washington state voter-approved initiative was passed to require the unions to obtain approval from the fee payer instead of requiring the fee payer to request a refund from the union. The 70,000-member state teachers' union vigorously objected to the law.
The law in the State of Washington has since been changed by the state's Democrat-controlled legislature and governor and, again, makes the nonmembers request a refund. However, the principles of this ruling will impact other states that may decide to pass similar laws. It will also refuel the debate about the problem of compulsory unionism and the First Amendment issues raised by forcing workers to support unions in order to enter a chosen profession.
This case illustrates the audacity of some union leaders who argued they have a constitutional right to extract money from employees to pay for their political objectives. Unions cannot advance their liberal political agendas by extorting wages from employees. An employee should not be forced to fund objectionable ideological causes as a prerequisite to earning a living.