Twenty-four amicus briefs have been filed at the Supreme Court in support of compelled union dues. The parties who have signed on to the briefs include the Obama administration, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and twenty-two union organizations.
A theme repeated throughout many of the briefs is that political money and government efficiency trump the free speech concerns of Rebecca Friedrichs and other public employees. The brief filed by the Obama administration argues that money given to an organization is not “speech” protected by the First Amendment, and that therefore the state of California may compel public employees to pay union dues without violating their constitutional rights.
A brief filed jointly by the Los Angeles and New York City Health and Human Safety departments make the point even more explicitly: “agency employers must be able to exercise significant control over their employees’ words and actions.” In the eyes of the government, the First Amendment does not apply to public employees.
Many of the union briefs echo this sentiment. The twenty-two union parties who signed onto briefs argue forcefully that the current financial arrangement between state governments and unions should be left untouched. In a brief filed by AFL-CIO, the union argues that the government’s interest in efficiency “is sufficient to justify any impingement upon employees’ First Amendment rights.”
Many of the briefs, however, take contradictory positions that reveal the weakness of the union arguments against free speech. While the government and union briefs insist that compelled dues are not political, some briefs take the opposite position: they argue in support of compelled union dues because of the political work that unions accomplish through collective bargaining.
For instance, the brief filed by the National Women’s Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign contends that compelled union dues are needed because of the positive political changes that unions are able to enact through collective bargaining. The organizations in this brief point specifically to union efforts that force local governments to accommodate claims arising from an employee’s gender identity. The implementation of such provisions is one of the most controversial political debates in our nation, yet through collective bargaining, many public employees are forced to support a side they may not agree with.
Together, the briefs represent the coalition of government and union organizations who urge the Supreme Court to preserve their mutually beneficial financial arrangement at the expense of individual rights.
A full list of amicus briefs filed in support of the unions can be found here.
CIR will file a reply brief on December 14th.