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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Court sets "modest, reasonable limit" on unions

In a rebuke to the coercive tactics of Big Labor, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that states may require unions to get permission from nonmembers before using their dues money for political activities. The decision is especially timely, given that next week Senate Democrats are scheduled to vote to eliminate secret-ballot elections for union organizing.

Yesterday's decision stems from a suit in Washington state, where voters in 1992 adopted a paycheck protection measure that said employees must actively assent to having their mandatory dues spent on politics. The Washington Education Association - the main teachers union - claimed the law violated its free speech rights under the Constitution, and the creative Washington Supreme Court struck the law down. The U.S. Supremes disagreed, and then some.

Writing for a unanimous majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said flatly that the law "does not violate the First Amendment" and that "unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of nonmember employees." Justice Scalia said this "modest limitation" on how unions can spend dues is perfectly reasonable, especially given that states could go much further and ban the collection of dues altogether if they chose. The ruling won't make much of a dent in union coffers, since they can still compel dues from nonmembers for collective bargaining. But about 20 states have laws similar in concept to Washington's, so this ruling could have some impact nationwide.

As more U.S. workers have refused to join unions, Big Labor has become more reliant on coercion, and Democrats are trying to make that arm-twisting easier. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made passing the union organizing law - which goes by the wonderfully inaccurate Employee Free Choice Act - one of her first orders of business earlier this year. Senate Democrats are expected to follow suit. President Bush has vowed to veto the bill, but it's also encouraging that the Supreme Court has now rejected this union ploy of dues coercion disguised as "free speech."