Unions and the First Amendment

We recently had a ruling come down from the Supreme Court in the case of Knox v. SEIU. The issues were analyzed in a YouTube video “The First Amendment and Knox v. SEIU (Trevor Burrus)” by a CATO specialist, Trevor Burrus. The case involves matters related to the First Amendment and free speech. Secondarily, it relates to how money deducted from a person’s union dues can be used with regard to political activities. And thirdly, it relates to the rights of nonunion members in regard to the fact that they have expressly opted out of being in the union and paying dues yet funds are being taken from their salaries for use in union political activities.

First of all, what is the First Amendment. It’s the section of the Bill of Rights that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The language of the First Amendment reads:

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.

American Library Association

What we find as we follow the CATO/Burrus analysis of this ruling is that nonunion members were being charged a fee for expressions that did not match their desires as well as represented funds they had expressly said they did not want to pay. In essence, they were not only paying for something they did not want, they were also paying to defeat their own interests.

For further information about the implications of rights under the First Amendment and freedom of expression, comments on the philosophical theories of freedom of expression can be found in Notes and analytic expressions on FindLaw.

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