Friday, June 22, 2007

A Limit On Public Unions

Little noticed in the background behind the legislative fiascos in DC, the United States Supreme Court announces a unanimous decision supporting the constitutionality of Washington State giving public employees a way to say NO to government unions. From the majority opinion:

“It is undeniably unusual for a government agency to give a private entity the power, in essence, to tax government employees. …We hold that it does not violate the First Amendment for a State to require that its public-sector unions receive affirmative authorization from a nonmember before spending that nonmember’s agency fees for election-related purposes.”

In other words, there are limits to the extent unions can demand and spend money from public employees. More importantly, it gives legislators a firm starting point from which to craft restrictions on the control of unions over our government. Thank you Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Good work.

What does our victory mean and what happens next? This is an important victory for the First Amendment rights of public-sector workers, particularly those who have refused to join a union. Here’s what the case means right now: 1) it is constitutional to require unions to ask first; 2) any state legislature can adopt similar laws or even go beyond Washington’s law; and 3) ask-first-type laws that already exist in other states will be protected; 4) the Washington Education Association will be held accountable for its past violations.

This case has significant national impact, not only because of the actual language of the ruling, but because of the 9-0 decision. Regardless of who holds the political reins over the next decade, a 9-0 decision is unlikely to be overturned. It forms the launching pad for state legislatures to move more aggressively, if they choose.

If they choose. The public sector unions understand this threat to their power over the tax dollar economy and waste no time scurrying back to the legislature to defend their turf.

The Olympian: While on the losing end of the unanimous verdict, the teachers union might have the last laugh. Knowing that they likely would be crushed by the justices, teachers went to their Democratic friends in the governor’s mansion and Legislature earlier this year and passed a new law (House Bill 2079) that repealed the permission clause.

So the Supreme Court points out the pathway we can take to wrest back control of our public servants but resistance will be fierce and well financed. It is going to be a long tunnel back to citizen control of government.