Free Speech and Public Employee Unions

Right From the Start

In the pointless political correct world of the country’s ruling elites, the United States Supreme Court struck a blow for Free Speech under the First Amendment.  Under former President Barack Obama a series of white men and women occupying the leadership of the United States Patent and Trademark Office decided to be “offended” on behalf of the entire Asian population of the country and refused trademark protection to a band called The Slants – despite the fact that the band members were all of Asian descent and chose the name themselves as a badge of honor against perceived prejudice.

These are the same white men and women who were offended on behalf of the entire Native American population over the use of the term “Redskins” by the National Football League team the Washington Redskins.  That is in spite of a poll to the contrary by The Washington Post.  Alex Griswold writing for Media described the poll thusly:
“A new poll from The Washington Post finds that a whopping 90 percent of Native Americans have no objection to the Washington Redskins football team’s nickname, while only 9 percent find the name offensive.
“73 percent of those polled say they didn’t find the term ‘Redskin’ offensive to Native Americans at all. 80 percent said that they wouldn’t even be offended if a non-Native American called them a Redskin to their face. 91 percent said they were ‘not at all or ‘not too much’ bothered by the use of Native American imagery in sports.”
The noblese oblige attitude of the white political elites must give them considerable comfort as they admire their “great works” in the morning mirrors of their enclaves.  Thank goodness we have them to be offended on behalf of people who, apparently, cannot think for themselves.  But I digress.

In MATAL, INTERIM DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE v. TAM  the Supreme Court struck down the Lanham Act which sought to prevent the use of trademarks that could be seen as “disparaging” of others – a vague and overly broad standard and, quite frankly more subjective than objective.  The court reiterated that it is often uncomfortable or controversial speech that is the essence of the First Amendment protections.  In the Sixties and Seventies it was this protection that propelled liberals – primarily at the nation’s universities – to demand the right to be heard.  They railed against the repression of those who espoused communism, those who supported interracial marriage, and against those who sought to ban sexually charged speech – including crude references to sexual acts, and male and female genitalia.  The point being that because that speech was deemed protected under the First Amendment the essence of those ideas could then be discussed in public forums.  As a result attitudes on race, sexuality and gender were changed forever.  The surprising thing is that once liberals who advocated free speech in the universities gained control of those universities, they quickly engaged in the  grossest forms of suppression of speech that differed from their orthodoxy.

Likewise the public employee unions, who advocated the right of free speech and association to overturn laws that prohibited public employees from engaging in collective bargaining, now use their vast resources, including fear and intimidation, to resist the right of free speech amongst their members to disagree with those same unions.  In a recent case before the Supreme Court, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, dissident members of the union sought to block the use of union mandatory assessments to support legislation that they opposed.  Justices Anton Scalia and Samuel Alito in previous decisions had laid out a road map of how mandatory dues for public employee unions violated the Free Speech rights of individual members of the unions.  However, with the death of Justice Scalia, the court tied on a 4-4 vote thus preserving the notoriously liberal and error prone Ninth Circuit Court’s decision in favor of the public employee unions.

Surprisingly – well maybe not so suprisingly – the four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonya Sotomayor, Elana Kagan and Stephen Breyer who sided with the The Slants in favor of Free Speech, sided with the public employee unions in opposition to Free Speech in the Friedrichs case.  The reason I hesitate in saying “surprisingly” is that The Slants case dealt with an isolated incident with little or no organic impact on politics – particularly liberal politics.  (For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in the Portland Public Schools, organic – means something effecting the structure of the organism.)

In contrast the Friedrichs case strikes at the very heart of the financing of liberal politics – the structure of its organism.  America’s public employee unions are the principal financing arm of the Democrat Party.  These unions spent in excess of $1.7 Billion – almost all in support of Democrat candidates – during the last election cycle.  These figures do not include issues advocacy, political polling, internal communications with their over 20.6 Million members, and get out the vote efforts focused primarily on identifiable Democrat voters.  The public employees unions are a potent force because their mandatory dues collection provides them virtually unlimited political funds.  Absent mandatory dues collection and compulsory membership the public employee unions would not have the resources to finance the Democrat Party and the Democrat Party would be required to solicit contributions individually just as the Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents are required to do.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) which, next to the various teachers unions, is the most militant and aggressive public employee union has already recognized the risk to its very being and introduced a thirty percent reduction in its future budgets.  While the teachers unions have not made similar public statements, privately their lawyers have conceded that the unions would have lost the Friedrichs case had Justice Scalia not died and are relatively certain that they will lose when the issues return to the court with Justice Neil Gorsuch having replaced the deceased Justice Scalia.

The same forces that brought the Friedrichs case before the court are already preparing for a return of those issues as rapidly as possible.  The most interesting part of the court’s decision will not be whether the court will affirm the dissident union members right to Free Speech but rather the convoluted rationale that the four liberals will use to distinguish their reasoning for abandoning the sanctity of Free Speech that they upheld in The Slants case.  Look for them to create a “right” found only in the penumbra of their own political bias and lacking any recognition in the Constitution.  (It may also be interesting to see whether Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg can stay awake for the oral arguments in the case and refrain from exercising her vitriol toward President Donald Trump.)

For those of you who believe that justice is blind – just wait until liberal/progressive primacy is threatened by the courts.