News Release

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees With Right to Work Foundation: Unions Have No Right to Payroll Deduction

More effective alternative would have been stopping government payroll deduction for all union dues

Washington, DC (February 24, 2009) – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 6-3 in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association that states may prohibit union officials from using payroll deduction to divert government workers’ money into union coffers.

In overturning a Ninth Circuit appeals court decision and upholding an Idaho law banning payroll deduction for union political dues from state and local government employees, the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with arguments made by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys. The lower court had blocked the state from requiring local government bodies to comply with the state law.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys – joining with the Sutherland Institute, Utah Taxpayers Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business – successfully argued in their amicus brief (pdf) that unions, in fact, have no constitutional right to use government resources to deduct dues from workers’ paychecks.

“The Supreme Court's decision makes clear what should be obvious, that union officials have no constitutional right to use government resources to line their pockets,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. "It is bad public policy for government bodies essentially to act as bagmen for union political monies.”

“But there was a much more effective way to address this problem. The Idaho legislature should simply have banned all union payroll deductions, not just those for narrowly defined political activities,” continued Gleason. “Unfortunately, the definition of politics covered by such laws is so narrow that union bosses are essentially able to continue business as usual.”

The majority opinion also relied on the unanimous Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Davenport v. WEA victory. In Davenport, Foundation attorneys represented a group of nonunion Washington State teachers.

The three dissenting Justices in Ysursa were troubled by the appearance that the Idaho law targeted only union political speech rather than having a broader objective. Legal experts agree that laws which ban payroll deduction across the board – rather than just monies for certain political speech – would therefore be less vulnerable to legal attack and would better serve the public policy purposes underpinning such laws.

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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