Mackinac Center Files Friend of the Court Brief in U.S. Supreme Court Cases Involving Use of Union Fees for Political Causes

Adverse ruling could undermine a Michigan law that protects workers from involuntarily supporting union political activity with which they disagree

For Immediate Release

Patrick J. Wright, Senior Legal Analyst
Phone: 989-430-3912

MIDLAND — The Mackinac Center for Public Policy late yesterday filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of a state of Washington law meant to protect workers who do not join their workplace union from having their mandated fees used without their consent for the union’s political causes. If the U.S. Supreme Court were to uphold the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling that the Washington law is unconstitutional, Michigan’s system for allowing workers to choose explicitly whether to contribute to a union’s political causes could be open to legal challenge.

The Center’s friend of the court brief was written by Mackinac Center Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright, who noted today: "The Supreme Court has previously held that a union may charge nonmembers in a bargaining unit for costs associated with collective bargaining, but that the nonmembers still have the First Amendment right to withhold their support for union political activism. The Washington law kept to that view by preventing a union from spending a nonmember’s money for political causes ‘unless affirmatively authorized by the individual.’ The Washington Supreme Court’s ruling that nonmembers must explicitly refuse to have their money spent on political activity is untenable. It puts the First Amendment rights of a union above those of the people who don’t join the union."

Michigan’s law is similar to the Washington law in requiring employee authorization before an employee’s money can be used by a union political action committee. The consolidated cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court are Davenport v. Washington Education Association and Washington v. Washington Education Association. Oral arguments in the cases are scheduled for Jan. 10, 2007. The Center’s brief is available at