U.S. Supreme Court Oral Arguments Today Suggest Unions Could Lose in Key Cases Involving Use of Union Fees for Political Causes, Says Center Legal Analyst

“Justices across the political spectrum were highly skeptical”; “Will the court go even further?”

For Immediate Release
Jan. 10, 2007
Patrick J. Wright, Senior Legal Analyst

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court today in two key labor cases, "Justices across the political spectrum were highly skeptical of a Washington teachers union’s view that its First Amendment rights trump those of workers who have chosen not to join the union," said Patrick J. Wright, senior legal analyst for the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Wright, who attended the oral arguments this morning, has filed a "friend of the court" brief in the cases, which involve a state of Washington law intended to protect workers who do not join their workplace union from having their mandatory union fees used to finance the union’s political activities without their consent.

Wright predicted the court would rule against the union and uphold the Washington law. He added, "The real question may be, Will the court go even further? Several of the justices seemed to suggest they might even hold that the First Amendment rights of the nonunion workers require further constitutional protection than the state of Washington law provides. It’s not impossible that unions could walk away from the ruling in these cases unable to collect anything more than bargaining fees from nonunion workers regardless of state law." A decision in the cases is expected by June.

The Washington Supreme Court last year held that the Washington law was unconstitutional. If the U.S. Supreme Court were to uphold that decision, a similar Michigan law could be open to legal challenge.

The consolidated court cases heard today were Davenport v. Washington Education Association and Washington v. Washington Education Association. The Mackinac Center’s friend of the court brief is available at www.mackinac.org/8065.