Aggregator • Wake up America • ID=79101
By Susan Duclos
Justice Ginsburg: "First Amendment does not permit a union to extract a loan from unwilling nonmembers"
The case is Knox vs Service Employees Int'l Union, Local 1000
The issue that was before the Supreme Court: Whether a state can require its employees to pay a special union fee that will be spent for political purposes without first giving the employees information about the fee and a chance to object to it.
The Supreme Court ruling has been released, the answer is no they cannot, the vote was 7 to 2.
From pages 2, 3 and 4 of the ruling:
1. This case is not moot. Although the SEIU offered a full refund toall class members after certiorari was granted, a live controversy remains. The voluntary cessation of challenged conduct does not ordinarily render a case moot because that conduct could be resumed as soon as the case is dismissed. See City of Mesquite v. Aladdin's Castle, Inc., 455 U. S. 283, 289. Since the SEIU continues to defend the fund's legality, it would not necessarily refrain from collecting similar fees in the future. Even if concerns about voluntary cessation were inapplicable because petitioners did not seek prospective relief, therewould still be a live controversy as to the adequacy of the refund notice the SEIU sent pursuant to the District Court's order. Pp. 6−8.
2. 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 theiraffirmative consent. Pp. 8−23.
(a) A close connection exists between this Nation's commitmentto self-government and the rights protected by the First Amendment, see, e.g., Brown v. Hartlage, 456 U. S. 45, 52−53, which creates 'an open marketplace' in which differing ideas about political, economic, and social issues can compete freely for public acceptance withoutimproper government interference, New York State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres, 552 U. S 196, 202. The government may not prohibitthe dissemination of ideas it disfavors, nor compel the endorsement of ideas that it approves. See, e.g., R. A. V. v. St. Paul, 505 U. S. 377, 382. And the ability of like-minded individuals to associate for thepurpose of expressing commonly held views may not be curtailed.See, e.g., Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U. S. 609, 623. Closely related to compelled speech and compelled association is compelledfunding of the speech of private speakers or groups. Compulsorysubsidies for private speech are thus subject to exacting FirstAmendment scrutiny and cannot be sustained unless, first, there is a comprehensive regulatory scheme involving a 'mandated association'among those who are required to pay the subsidy, United States v. United Foods, Inc., 533 U. S. 405, and, second, compulsory fees are levied only insofar as they are a 'necessary incident' of the 'larger regulatory purpose which justified the required association,' ibid. Pp. 8−10.
(b) When a State establishes an 'agency shop' that exacts compulsory union fees as a condition of public employment, '[t]he dissenting employee is forced to support financially an organization with whose principles and demands he may disagree.' Ellis v. Railway Clerks, 466 U. S. 435, 455. This form of compelled speech and association imposes a 'significant impingement on First Amendment rights.' Ibid. The justification for permitting a union to collect feesfrom nonmembers—to prevent them from free-riding on the union's efforts—is an anomaly. Similarly, requiring objecting nonmembersto opt out of paying the nonchargeable portion of union dues―rather than exempting them unless they opt in―represents a remarkable boon for unions, creating a risk that the fees nonmembers pay will beused to further political and ideological ends with which they do not agree. Thus, Hudson, far from calling for a balancing of rights or interests, made it clear that any procedure for exacting fees from unwilling contributors must be 'carefully tailored to minimize the infringement' of free speech rights, 475 U. S. 302−303, and it cited cases holding that measures burdening the freedom of speech or association must serve a compelling interest and must not be significantly broader than necessary to serve that interest. Pp. 10−13.
(c) There is no justification for the SEIU's failure to provide a fresh Hudson notice. Hudson rests on the principle that nonmembers should not be required to fund a union's political and ideological projects unless they choose to do so after having 'a fair opportunity' to assess the impact of paying for nonchargeable union activities. 475 U.S., at 303. The SEIU's procedure cannot be considered to have met Hudson's requirement that fee-collection procedures be carefullytailored to minimize impingement on First Amendment rights. The SEIU argues that nonmembers who objected to the special assessment but were not given the opportunity to opt out would have beengiven the chance to recover the funds by opting out when the nextannual notice was sent, and that the amount of dues payable the following year by objecting nonmembers would decrease if the special assessment were found to be for nonchargeable purposes. But this decrease would not fully recompense nonmembers, who would not have paid to support the special assessment if given the choice. In any event, even a full refund would not undo the First Amendment violations, since the First Amendment does not permit a union to extract a loan from unwilling nonmembers even if the money is later paid back in full. Pp. 14−17.
(d) The SEIU's treatment of nonmembers who opted out when the initial Hudson notice was sent also ran afoul of the First Amendment. They were required to pay 56.35% of the special assessment even though all the money was slated for nonchargeable, electoral uses. And the SEIU's claim that the assessment was a windfall because chargeable expenses turned out to be 66.26% is unpersuasive. First, the SEIU's understanding of the breadth ofchargeable expenses is so expansive that it is hard to place much reliance on its statistics. 'Lobbying the electorate,' which the SEIU claims is chargeable, is nothing more than another term for supporting political causes and candidates. Second, even if the SEIU's statistics are accurate, it does not follow that it was proper to charge objecting nonmembers any particular percentage of the special assessment. If, as the SEIU argues, it is not possible to accuratelydetermine in advance the percentage of union funds that will be used for an upcoming year's chargeable purposes, there is a risk that unconsenting nonmembers will have paid too much or too little. That risk should be borne by the side whose constitutional rights are notat stake. If the nonmembers pay too much, their First Amendment rights are infringed. But, if they pay too little, no constitutional right of the union is violated because it has no constitutional right to receive any payment from those employees. Pp. 17−23. 628 F. 3d 1115, reversed and remanded.
ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which GINSBURG, J., joined. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined.
H/T Weasel Zippers
The full 48 page ruling, with the opinion concurring and the dissenting opinion, embedded below.
Supreme Court Union Ruling more