The importance of right-to-work goes beyond worker freedom and is consistent with longstanding principles of free speech. A sterling example of the connection between the First Amendment and coerced support for unions can be found in the Janus decision.
Justice Alito began the Court’s opinion by noting that compelled speech is inconsistent with traditional constitutional principles. He wrote, “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command [to protect free speech], and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.” He elaborated:
When speech is compelled, however, additional damage is done. In that situation, individuals are coerced into betraying their convictions. Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning, and for this reason, one of our landmark free speech cases said that a law commanding “involuntary affirmation” of objected-to beliefs would require “even more immediate and urgent grounds” than a law demanding silence.
Noting that even core union activities, such as negotiating wages and terms and conditions of employment, impact matters of public policy when government workers are involved, the Janus ruling concluded that compelled financial support of public sector unions led to unconstitutional compelled speech. The principles underlying the Janus decision are equally viable, although not legally applicable, in the private sector. Forcing someone to finance speech they disagree with falls into the same category.
Thomas Jefferson once noted, “[T]o compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” This principle is no less true when the coercion is accomplished by a private actor, such as a private sector union, then when it is accomplished by the government itself. This is especially the case when the private actor can compel financial support by way of laws passed by the government. Right-to-work ends this form of compelled speech.