WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state law banning local governments from letting workers use payroll deductions to fund their union’s political activities, a decision that could strike at organized labor’s ability to raise funds at local levels.
Five labor unions and the Idaho state AFL-CIO successfully argued in lower federal courts that a 2003 Idaho law forcing cities, counties and school districts to eliminate a payroll deduction funding union political action committees violated the First Amendment.
“Idaho’s law does not restrict political speech, but rather declines to promote that speech by allowing public employee checkoff for political activities,” Chief Justice John Roberts said as the court voted 6-3 to overturn those rulings.
John Rumel, lawyer for the Idaho Education Association, said the decision could prompt anti-labor state legislatures to eliminate payroll checkoff for political activity in hopes it would hurt unions. But Rumel also said that they have moved away from payroll deductions and to electronic funds transfer after people get their paychecks for political contributions just in case the court did not rule their way.
“While we’re certainly disappointed in the outcome, we’ve moved on,” Rumel said.
Here is the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation:
Washington, DC (February 24, 2009) – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 6-3 in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association that states may prohibit union officials from using payroll deduction to divert government workers’ money into union coffers.
In overturning a Ninth Circuit appeals court decision and upholding an Idaho law banning payroll deduction for union political dues from state and local government employees, the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with arguments made by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys. The lower court had blocked the state from requiring local government bodies to comply with the state law.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys – joining with the Sutherland Institute, Utah Taxpayers Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business – successfully argued in their amicus brief (pdf) that unions, in fact, have no constitutional right to use government resources to deduct dues from workers’ paychecks.
“The Supreme Court’s decision makes clear what should be obvious, that union officials have no constitutional right to use government resources to line their pockets,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It is bad public policy for government bodies essentially to act as bagmen for union political monies.”
Here is Americans for Limited Government, which had filed a friend of the court brief:
February 24th, 2009, Fairfax, VA— Americans for Limited Government Bill Wilson today hailed the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association. “We at ALG are extremely gratified that the Supreme Court agreed with us,” said Wilson.
“This a victory for taxpayers who do not wish to be forced to fund union politics,” he added.
The decision determined that a state government may prohibit its counties, cities, and towns from subsidizing union political activities via its government payroll systems.
“This is a great win. The First Amendment does not require government to devote taxpayer resources to facilitating the speech of its workers, their preferred political organizations, or anyone else,” said Wilson.
“This sets the table for states across the nation to set up similar prohibitions,” Wilson added.
Americans for Limited Government on June 6th had filed an amicus curiae brief in the case.
Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Assocation was heard this fall by the nation’s highest court, which granted certiorari to the state of Idaho’s appeal on March 31st. The case had involved an Idaho law banning the state’s counties, cities, and towns from allowing union payroll deductions to be used for the subsidization of political activities.
That law was overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 5th, 2007 in a decision stating that the state could not constitutionally under the First Amendment prohibit its political subdivisions from making union payroll deductions because the state did not fund and directly administer those payroll systems.
Tags: 9th circuit, AFL-CIO, free speech, idaho, nea, political speech, SCOTUS, unions