News Release

10th Circuit Agrees With Right to Work Foundation: Utah Unions Have No Right to Payroll Deduction for Politics

But a more effective alternative would have been stopping government payroll deduction for all union dues

Salt Lake City, UT (April 22, 2009) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit yesterday reversed itself and ruled to uphold a Utah statute prohibiting union officials from using payroll deduction to divert teachers’ and other government workers’ money into union electioneering.

“Utah has a legitimate interest in avoiding the reality or appearance of government entanglement with partisan politics” and Utah’s Voluntary Contributions Act “plainly serves the State’s interest in separating public employment from political activities,” the court held.

The National Right to Work Foundation joined in an amici brief with the Utah-based Sutherland Institute (and others) to defend the Utah statute which had previously been struck down. After initially siding with union attorneys who argued the law somehow violated the constitutional rights of the union, the Tenth Circuit put the case on hold pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving a similar Idaho statute.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys successfully argued in their briefs in Utah Education Association et al. v. Mark Shurtleff – just as they did at the U.S. Supreme Court in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association at al. – that unions have no constitutional right to use government resources to deduct dues from workers’ paychecks.

“The recent Supreme Court's decision and now this Tenth Circuit ruling makes clear what should have been obvious: 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 Utah 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.”

Since Utah is a Right to Work state, employees have the right to refrain from union membership and cannot be lawfully compelled to pay any dues whatsoever to a union. Employees who wish to ensure none of their dues are spent to promote a union’s agenda can best do so by exercising their Right to Work.

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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