Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The Supreme Court just granted cert. in two consolidated cases, Washington v. Washington Education Association and Davenport v. Washington Education Association. In 1992, Washington voters adopted an initiative that required unions to obtain affirmative consent ("opt-in") from nonmembers before spending any of the nonmembers' fees on political activity. This is a sharp contrast from the typical "opt-out" rule for dues objectors.
The Washington Supreme Court held that the initiative violated the First Amendment because it imposed a significant burden on unions' ability to engage in political speech and association. The Court accepted the union's argument that nonmember objectors' right not to contribute to political spending was adequately protected by their ability to opt-out; thus, there was no compelling interest for restricting unions' First Amendment rights.
This is obviously an important issue that could have a significant impact on unions' political activity. I don't like to guess the outcome of Supreme Court cases, but the grant of cert. here has got to be a grave concern for unions. Stay tuned.