Teaching Profession

Unions Dismayed by Supreme Court Ruling

By Liana Loewus — February 25, 2009 1 min read
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On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Idaho state law that bans local governments from allowing unions to collect political contributions through payroll deductions. Labor unions contended that the 2003 law violated their free speech rights. Following the 6-3 vote deeming the law constitutional, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that, “Such a decision is reasonable in light of the state’s interest in avoiding the appearance that carrying out the public’s business is tainted by partisan political activity.” (See more about the case on Mark Walsh’s School Law Blog).

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation issued a press release applauding the Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association ruling. The foundation’s vice president said, “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.” The release also stated that a “more effective alternative would have been stopping government payroll deduction for all union dues.”

Should unions be concerned about a slippery slope? Could dues really be next? The lawyer for the Idaho Education Association (the state NEA affiliate), John Rumel, is concerned that the elimination of payroll checkoff for political activities could be used by anti-labor legislatures as a means of weakening unions.

As for now, the show must go on. According to Rumel, there’s currently a system in place for union members to make political contributions through electronic transfers after they receive their paychecks. Which begs the question: Is the deduction ban truly a threat to the unions’ political voice or only a matter worth challenging on principle?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.