In a major decision, the United States Supreme Court upheld workers' First Amendment rights and struck down a Service Employees International Union scheme aimed at spending nonunion California civil servants' hard-earned money on union politics.
The Knox decision concludes a prolonged legal challenge affecting some 36,000 California state employees. It began when eight courageous civil servants filed a class-action lawsuit against the SEIU with the help of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In 2005, SEIU Local 1000 officials imposed a "special assessment" to raise money from all state employees -- including nonunion workers -- in their bargaining unit for a union "political fight back fund." Employees who refrained from union membership were given no chance to opt out of paying for the SEIU's political campaign.
By ruling against the union's scheme 7-2, the Court closed a giant loophole that would have allowed union bosses to confiscate money from workers' paychecks for political spending sprees -- and once again sent a message to union officials that forced political contributions are unconstitutional.
Perhaps more significantly, the 5 judge majority opinion in Knox opens the door to future legal challenges against forced dues-funded union political activism. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, suggested that government employees who refrain from union membership should have to affirmatively opt-in to paying for union political activism, instead of having to go through the arduous process of objecting to every new union political outlay.
"Which side should bear the risk," asks Alito? "The answer is obvious: the side whose constitutional rights are not at stake." In other words, union officials shouldn't get to assume that employees who don't belong to their union support their partisan political agenda.
The Knox victory is a critical milestone in the fight for worker freedom. But it wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of the Foundation's free legal aid program, which in turn depends on the support of concerned citizens across the country. Thank you for your support -- we couldn't do it without you.