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SCOTUS rules unions must give notice to nonmembers before collecting fee increases

Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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Coming on the heels of Gov. Scott Walker’s recall victory in Wisconsin, today sees another blow to public-sector employee unions.

The Supreme Court handed down its decision rejecting the idea that governmental employee unions can use funds from non-members for political means. In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the basis of the majority’s argument rested on First Amendment rights. Essentially, while non-members are expected to pay a certain fee to unions for any benefits they may receive through collective bargaining efforts, they have no constitutional obligation to supply funds to politicians or campaigns with which they disagree.

The majority even went one step further, mandating that government unions must switch to an “opt-in” system for such payments. This means the employees themselves must go out of their way to agree to have their money diverted elsewhere. Traditionally, unions used an “opt-out” system, and employees had to speak up if they wanted to keep their money out of the political arena.

What are the short term and long term ramifications of this decision? What did the Supreme Court minority have to say about the ruling? What can labor unions do to regain some of their lost power?


Deborah J. La Fetra, Principal Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation; Authored the Amicus Brief in support of Knox in this case

Joseph Grodin, Emeritus Professor, University of California Hastings and former associate justice for California Supreme Court