Supreme Court Victory for the First Amendment

The Supreme Court decided Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) today, delivering an important victory for the First Amendment. 

The case originated in California, which is not a right-to-work state. There, public unions may collect dues from non-union workers and finance political campaigns, as long as they issue a “Hudson notice” allowing non-union members to opt out of political expenditures. This case arose out of the SEIU’s decision to campaign against two California ballot initiatives after already issuing a “Hudson notice.” To fund these additional campaign expenses, SEIU levied a temporary union fee increase without inviting non-union members to opt out. In practice, this forced the non-union members to pay for a political campaign they might oppose, at least until the next “Hudson notice.”

In response, the Supreme Court held

Under the First Amendment, when a union imposes a special as­sessment or dues increase levied to meet expenses that were not dis­closed when the regular assessment was set, it must provide a fresh notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.

In other words, as Justice Sotomayor’s concurring opinion argues, the Supreme Court found, “for the very first time, that the First Amendment does require an opt-in system in some circumstances: the levying of a special assessment or dues increase.”

This is a great win for the First Amendment and the freedom from forced political speech. It is easy to understand why anything hampering the ability of unions to extract money from the American workforce would make the far Left apoplectic. In 2005, an opt-in regime would have prevented the SEIU from using a fee increase to oppose two California ballot initiatives, one capping government spending, and the other restricting unions’ use of dues for political purposes. What is harder to justify is the objection to the Court’s ruling, which essentially gives workers the ability to decide for themselves whether they want to support the same political causes as the union imposing the fee. The ruling vindicates the First Amendment and puts public unions on the same playing field as every other entity that has to raise money by persuading people that its cause is worth a contribution.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More