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Supreme Court slaps public employee unions

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that public employee unions can’t violate state laws that prohibit them from using non-members’ dues on political campaigns without prior permission. The ruling came in two cases from Washington State where, as in Oregon, the teachers union has been coercing non-members to pay not only for collective bargaining, but also for its political activities.

If you think coercion is too strong a word, that’s what Justice Scalia called it in oral arguments. Speaking to an attorney representing the union, Scalia said, “Here is the Government acting as a coercer. It’s because of the Government that you’re allowed to get this money from these non-union members.”

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Washington State led the way to this legal victory. Cascade Policy Institute here in Oregon joined others in submitting an amicus brief to the Court on these cases.

Public employees work for the taxpayers. We shouldn’t allow their unions to coerce political funds out of their paychecks. The Court decision was rather narrow, but the logic applies much more broadly. No union should be able to use member or non-member dues for political purposes without their permission. Moving in that direction will help return free speech rights to a large segment of American workers, and will help reduce the unfair power that public employee unions have in our political system. Both are goals worth fighting for at the ballot box and in the courts.

Steve Buckstein is the Senior Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

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