by William Perry Pendley
September 15, 2011 - DENVER, CO. The Supreme Court of
the United States must reverse a decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and rule in favor of the First Amendment
rights of California workers, two nationally recognized legal foundations urged
in an amici curiae brief filed today. Mountain States Legal
Foundation (MSLF), Pacific Legal Foundation, Cato Institute, and the Center for
Constitutional Jurisprudence urged that the Court overturn a ruling that the
First Amendment rights of the nonmembers of a union that is their collective
bargaining agent, were not violated when they were denied an ability to object
to the assessment of fees used for political purposes. Dianne Knox and
fellow employees, on behalf of themselves and others, challenged a special
assessment that the Service Employees International Union used for political
purposes. The nonmembers argued the assessment was contrary to a 1986
ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court and violated their constitutional
rights. On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court agreed to hear their
"Given the politicization of government unions, it is vital
that nonmembers have the right to object when the union wants to use their
money for political purposes," said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president.
California recognizes the Service Employees International
Union as the exclusive bargaining agent for State employees, which must protect
the right of nonmembers to pay only fees directly related to collective
bargaining, and not those related to political activities of the union.
To protect nonmembers' First Amendment rights, the union must provide
nonmembers notice of any expenditures for political activities and a 30-day
opportunity to object to any fees for those political activities. In June
2005, the union sent out its annual notice, which stated that dues were subject
to change without further notice but would be capped at $45 per month.
In July 2005, the union
proposed to raise $12 million for political activity through an emergency
temporary assessment. In August 2005, the union mailed a letter advising
of a significant temporary increase in dues for political activities.
Notwithstanding assurances by the union, the assessment resulted in an increase
in fees for nonmembers and was not "temporary."
In November 2005, nonmembers filed a class action lawsuit in
the Eastern District of California, arguing that the notice was
constitutionally deficient and that the assessment violated their First, Fifth,
and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court ruled in favor of the
nonmembers on First Amendment grounds. The Ninth Circuit reversed.
Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a
nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property,
limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its
offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.
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