My colleague Ilya Shapiro hails as “a major victory for individual liberties” today’s Supreme Court decision in Knox v. SEIU, in which a five-member majority, reversing the Ninth Circuit, upheld the right of union members not to be assessed political contributions without their consent; Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor concurred in the result but not the majority opinion, while Justices Breyer and Kagan dissented. More: Damon Root, Reason; Daniel Fisher, Forbes; Trevor Burrus, Cato (quoting Justice Alito’s majority opinion: “the effect of the SEIU’s procedure was to force many nonmembers to subsidize a political effort designed to restrict their own rights.”).
A 1977 Supreme Court decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, upheld the constitutionality of forcing public employees to fund (through union dues) advocacy they might not like. More recently the Court has questioned the reasoning of Abood in Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), although the trend stalled in last year’s 4-4 split in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Now the Court could revisit the issue by agreeing to review a Seventh Circuit case from Illinois, Janus v. AFSCME [Ilya Shapiro and Frank Garrison, Cato]
On Jan. 11, the Supreme Court hears what may well be the most important case of the term. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 10 teachers have challenged a state requirement that they support political causes with which they disagree and that hurt their students.
At issue is a kind of law that exists in 25 states which forces public-sector workers either to join a union or pay an amount that covers the cost of the union’s collective bargaining. For California teachers, that means annual dues of about $1,000 or “agency fees” of about two-thirds that amount.
— Ilya Shapiro and Jason Bedrick, Orange County Register. More: Shapiro and Jayme Weber, The Federalist; Richard Epstein, Robert Alt first, second (empirical evidence that unions can do well even when nonmembers not obliged to pay agency fees), third (stare decisis) posts, George Will. Earlier on Friedrichs and its predecessor cases Harris v. Quinn and Knox v. SEIU. A contrary view: New York Times editorial.
- Supreme Court grants certiorari (as Cato had urged) in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, on First Amendment rights of individual public employees against unions, potentially major sequel to Harris v. Quinn (our coverage) and Knox v. SEIU (our coverage). More: Jason Bedrick, Cato;
- More First Amendment: On same day, high court says Texas can turn down Confederate-flag license plates but that town of Gilbert, Ariz. impermissibly took content into account in regulating roadside signs [Lyle Denniston; Eugene Volokh on Gilbert and earlier, and on license plates] Ilya Shapiro has a wrap-up of other end-of-term cases;
- Paging judicial-independence buffs: study finds Obama stands out for aggressive comments on pending SCOTUS cases [W$J via Jonathan Adler]
- Abercrombie v. EEOC followup (earlier): If Thomas’s dissent has the courage of its convictions, maybe it’s because he was longest-serving chairman in EEOC history [Tamara Tabo] “SCOTUS requires employers to stereotype in ruling for EEOC in hijab-accommodation case” [Jon Hyman] Yes, employers can still have dress codes, but read on for the caveat [Daniel Schwartz]
- “Illinois Uses Racial Preferences for No Good Reason,” Seventh Circuit take note [Ilya Shapiro and Julio Colomba, Cato]
- Feds can refuse to register a “disparaging” trademark. Consistent with the First Amendment? [Shapiro, Cato]
- More from Ilya Somin on anniversary of eminent domain Kelo v. New London decision [one, two, more]
- “Off-clock work: Flintstone laws in a Buck Rogers world” [Robin Shea] “NY Times offers unpaid internships after reporting on their questionable legality” [Poynter]
- Walker labor reforms in Wisconsin get results [Christian Schneider: City Journal, NY Post] “Watch the Walker recall election” [John Steele Gordon, Commentary]
- No prize for spotting fallacy: complaints that too many Europeans are collecting state disability payments construed as “demonizing disabled people” [Debbie Jolly, ENIL]
- “What could be worse than a self-righteous TSA agent? Answer: A TSA agents’ union advocate.” [Ken, Popehat]
- “Why Mitt Romney likes firing people” [Suzanne Lucas]
- Free speech and union dues: Tim Sandefur on the oral argument in Knox v. SEIU [PLF Liberty Blog] More: Jack Mann, CEI.
- My book on employment and labor law, The Excuse Factory, is alas still not available in online formats but you might find a bargain on a hardcover [Free Press/Simon & Schuster]