The Supreme Court announced Thursday its opinion in the Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) case, ruling that the First Amendment gives state employees the right to decline to pay dues used for political advocacy by the union.
More specifically, unions in California can no longer force non-union state workers to finance political campaigns. And now the legal precedent has been set.
But how did the SEIU get away with charging non-members in the first place? Red State explains:
In California, public workers are not required to join a union. Those that do not are assessed a “fair share fee,” usually a payroll deduction remitted to the union for representing their interests in certain areas. The fee assessed is a percentage of the amount charged a union member.
Under previous Supreme Court guidance, unions are required by law to notify non-members of the fee to be assessed which is based upon an audit of the previous year’s union finances. These are called Hudson notices after an earlier Supreme Court. Persons receiving the notice then have 30 days to object to the assessment. Most notably, the fees are supposed to be used for the costs incurred by the union in collective bargaining, not political advocacy.
However, in Knox v. SEIU, the SEIU in 2005 charged union and non-union state workers an “emergency assessment” without giving proper notice or the standard 30 days to fight it.
“Knox, among others, sued the union arguing that their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated in that they were not notified, via a Hudson notice, of the purpose of the special assessment, nor were they offered the 30-day opt out period,” according to Red State.
And although the SEIU was able to convince California’s left-leaning Ninth Circuit that because the original notices said assessments were "subject to change" that they were in the clear, the Supreme Court disagrees.
Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg agreed with the judgment, written by Justice Alito, and ruled in favor of Knox. The final ruling was 7-2; Breyer dissented, joined by Kagan, according to SCOTUS blog.
Wait – Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg ruled against the SEIU?
“All that money spent electing Obama, and his first SCOTUS pick rules against #SEIU,” the Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso tweeted when news of the decision broke.
Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work, issued the following statement after news of today’s ruling broke:
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...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.
This story has been updated. Updates will be added as they become available.