News Release

U.S. Supreme Court Misses Opportunity to Expand Protections for Employees Forced to Pay Union Dues

Today’s ruling highlights the need for Right to Work laws, which end forced unionism

Washington, DC (January 21, 2009) -- Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Maine state employees can be compelled under penalty of losing their jobs to pay into an international union’s litigation slush fund – even where all the litigation expenditures are made outside of their own bargaining unit.

In doing so, the High Court affirmed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirming a loose standard of protection under the U.S. Constitution for employees forced to pay dues as a condition of employment.

“America’s workers were not well served by this ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court missed an obvious opportunity to apply explicitly the same ‘strict scrutiny’ standard that applies under the First Amendment to other content-based government restrictions on free speech,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal aid to the employees asserting their rights.

“Forced unionism is an outrageous situation. It results from actions by politicians to pay back the union bosses who got them elected by handing them the forced union dues of millions of employees in America.”

The employee petitioners in Daniel Locke et al. v. Edward Karass et al., asked the U.S. Supreme Court to provide much-needed clarity to the criteria it had established previously that determine what union activities employees can be lawfully forced to fund.

Unions spend billions of dollars each year on activities such as politics, organizing, litigation, lobbying, and a wide range of other ideological and non-bargaining activities. Yet union officials often claim that non-union members must foot the bill for these activities or be fired from their jobs.

The High Court’s ruling dealt with a special situation where, according to lower courts, employees who pay into a national litigation pooling arrangement could theoretically at some time benefit from litigation expenditures for their own bargaining unit.

“Because of the narrowness of the issue involved, we are optimistic that collateral damage to employee rights will be minimized,” continued Mix. “More fundamentally, however, this decision also highlights the need for state Right to Work laws which prevent union officials from extracting any compulsory dues from individual employees as a condition of employment.”

Locke is the 14th case brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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