SCOTUS Sticks It To The Public Sector Unions

NPR reported that on Thursday, The Supreme Court of the United States once again demonstrated that its interests lie with big business and not the average American. In a 5-4 ruling the Court decided that non-members of Public Sector Unions do not have to pay special assessments levied to provide financing for the political activities of the union. Non-union members are required by law to pay union dues in a closed shop, the rationale being that they enjoy all the negotiated benefits of union salaries and benefits. The majority opinion was that the First Amendment requires an opt-in system.

The ruling stems from a 2005 action by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which imposed an emergency special assessment to fight a number of anti-union measures on the November ballot. The money was automatically deducted from paychecks by the state comptroller. Several non-union state employees objected and brought suit on behalf of 28,000 non-union members. The union eventually refunded the special assessment to those members who objected.

That was not good enough, according to Justice Alito, who stated that even though the money was refunded, it constituted a loan to the union and coerced those individuals to contribute to an effort with which they disagreed.

Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg, while agreeing that the union should have provided notice of the assessment, stated that an opt-out provision was sufficient under the First Amendment. However, Justice Alito, in writing the majority opinion said that an opt-out was not enough and that it is the responsibility of the union to have the non-union members opt-in.

Justice Sotomayor heatedly pointed out that the majority had decided to address issues that had not been briefed or argued before the court, specifically the opt-out versus opt-in. Justices Breyer and Kagan echoed her point, with Justice Breyer stating that the court does not normally find state laws unconstitutional without first hearing arguments from those who are in favor of those laws.

This was clearly a case where the court went beyond the issue being argued and issued a ruling that is detrimental to public sector unions.

In light of the Citizens United ruling, this commentator finds it interesting and disturbing that the companies I am invested in may use my money with impunity. I have no say in what political activities they engage in, yet I don’t see SCOTUS coming to my defense. I’d prefer to have that money paid to me in dividends instead of going into the pockets of some fat cat politician who wants to hand me a voucher instead of Medicare, who wants to close public schools in favor of private schools only a few can afford and who wants to privatize Social Security because hey! they’ve got theirs and to hell with me.

So when is SCOTUS going to tell corporations that they have to get the okay from their individual stockholders before shelling out millions to Mitt Romney? When is SCOTUS going to look out for me and all the people like me? When?

Ann Werner is a blogger and the author of two thrillers and two works of non-fiction. You can view her work at ARK Stories

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