Press release from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (AP story below):
Washington, DC (June 21, 2012) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 today, siding with nonmember California state employees challenging a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) political fee charged to them without notice and opportunity to opt out.
The case concludes a prolonged legal challenge affecting some 36,000 California government employees initiated by eight California civil servants who filed a class-action lawsuit with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
In 2005, SEIU officials imposed a “special assessment” to raise money from all state employees forced to accept union representation as a job condition for a union political fund, regardless of their membership status. The fund was used to defeat four ballot proposals, including one that would have revoked public employee unions’ special privilege of using forced fees for politics unless an employee consents. Employees who refrained from union membership were given no chance to opt out of paying the SEIU’s political assessment.
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.
Attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation – the nation’s leading advocate for workers who suffer from the abuses of compulsory unionism – argued, and the Court agreed, that the workers should not be forced to subsidize union officials’ political spending, even for a short period of time.
The Court closed a giant loophole that allowed union bosses to confiscate money from workers’ paychecks for political spending sprees – and sent a message to union officials, once again, that forced political conformity is unconstitutional.
(AP) Court: Union must give fee increase notice
By JESSE J. HOLLAND
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that unions must give nonmembers an immediate chance to object to unexpected fee increases or special assessments that all workers are required to pay in closed-shop situations.
The court ruled for Dianne Knox and other nonmembers of the Service Employees International Union's Local 1000, who wanted to object and opt out of a $12 million special assessment the union required from its California public sector members for political campaigning. Knox and others said the union did not give them a legally required notice that the increase was coming.
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."
Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented from the opinion. "If the union's basic administrative system does not violate the Constitution, then how could its special assessment have done so?" Breyer said. But Breyer said he agreed with Sotomayor on the court's decision to expand the decision beyond special political assessments. "No party has asked that we do so," he said. "The matter has not been fully argued in this court or in the courts below," said Breyer, who read his dissent aloud.
Alito said there is "no merit" to Breyer's and Sotomayor's complaints.