Union Members Can’t Be Forced to Pay for Political Activities

By Victoria Leca

On June 21 the Supreme Court rejected the idea that public sector unions can charge non-members for political activities.

It was a 7-2 decision, and the practice was struck down on First Amendment grounds. The majority opinion held that while employees can be required to pay dues for the direct benefits they get from the union, they cannot be forced to give money to unions for political activities.

At first the Service Employees International Union offered refunds to employees who were non-members and who disagreed with the political cause the union was promoting, but the Supreme Court ruled that the individuals had to choose to “opt-in” to the payment.

The workers who do not join unions should not be forced to pay for the union’s political activities. The fact that the Supreme Court majority decided that the worker has to opt-in to paycheck deductions, rather than opt-out of these payments, restores protection of individuals’ right to free speech and property.

Coming on the heels of Governor Scott Walker surviving his recall election in Wisconsin, this is one more victory for the rights of workers to be independent of union control. Workers shouldn’t have to join a union to have the right to work, and they certainly shouldn’t be forced to make political contributions against their will.

Victoria Leca is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy think tank.