Union says right-to-work law violates free speech

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Indiana's new right-to-work law should be struck down because it infringes upon unions' free speech rights by depriving them of the dues that fund their political speech, attorneys for a union challenging the law contend, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's so-called Citizens United ruling that eased restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

Attorneys for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 argue in a court brief that Indiana's new law, which allows workers to not pay union dues even if a union bargains on their behalf, interferes with the union's free speech rights and "impinges on this fundamental right of union membership."

The union is based in Countryside, Ill., and represents employees in northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana.

But the Indiana lawyer who crafted the argument that resulted in the 2010 Supreme Court decision says it would turn the ruling "on its head" if a judge accepted the union's argument.

The argument is just one of many tucked into the hefty 45-page brief the union filed in federal court late last month in response to the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A hearing on the state's motion is scheduled for April 26 in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

Along with other arguments based on state and federal constitutions and federal labor law, the union cites the 2010 Citizens United decision, which struck down on free-speech grounds restrictions on corporations' and union spending on advertising endorsing or opposing certain candidates.

The Indiana union's lawyers contend that the right-to-work law interferes with the union's free speech rights by stifling the collection of money that helps pay for its political speech.

"In this case, the state of Indiana restricted a channel of speech-supporting finance," the union brief maintains. "The Union legitimately utilizes dues money collected through the agency shop provisions in its collective bargaining agreements, in part, to finance political speech The Indiana Right to Work law prohibits agency shop agreements, and that prohibition restricts a channel through which speech-supporting finance might flow."

Adam Skaggs, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said it would be a "stretch" to read the Supreme Court decision in such a way because the ruling is about spending money, not collecting it.

"I'm not sure that Citizens United is going to bear the weight they're attempting to put on it," Skaggs said.

Jim Bopp, the Terre Haute lawyer and Republican activist who crafted the argument that resulted in Citizens United, said a ruling accepting the union's argument would "turn Citizens United on its head."

"The free speech is for you to speak ... it's not that you have the authority to have others pay for it," he said.

Bopp also was involved in organizing funding for ads advocating passage of the Indiana right-to-work law.

The head of a national right-to-work group that lobbied for the law's passage agreed.

"The notion that a union's First Amendment rights are being violated is suspect," said Mark Mix, president of the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Foundation, which has asked permission to file a friend of the court brief in the case. "To make that case, one must assume that everyone in the union agrees with how money is spent."

"Shouldn't freedom of speech be about voluntary speech as opposed to compelled speech?" he added.

But Dale Pierson, one of the attorneys representing Local 150, said workers don't have to pay for union speech with which they don't agree. Federal courts settled that issue decades ago, he said, holding that workers could only be required to pay the union the cost of representing them.

"They don't have to and they haven't been. They have a right to opt out and pay just their fair share of collective bargaining," Pierson said.

Under right-to-work, he said, workers don't have to pay even that. That violates a provision of Indiana's constitution that says no one has to provide services without just compensation, he said, since federal law requires the union to represent all the workers.

"We think that's going to be one of the strongest legal arguments for striking down this right-to-work law," Pierson said.

Attorneys for the state say in their 14-page response to the union that the First Amendment arguments are out of place because the union didn't raise them in its original complaint. They concede that the legal strategy, however, is "understandable because right-to-work laws have not been stricken on First Amendment grounds."


  • Reversed discrimination
    The demand to dismiss the right to work law because it is an infringement of the rights to free speech is no only not true, but on the contrary, if succeeded, it would be tremendously discriminatory upon those employees whose opinion and choosing wouldn't go along the Union's wishes, and, isn't this a clear transgression on the right of free speech of employees? So the Union is mostly behaving as those who justifies the mean for an end which is diametrical opposition to Americas values and principles.
  • The unions NEED the workers' money!
    Hey, hey, hey! Hookers and blow don't pay for themselves, you know? If the Unions don't collect the dues by force and have to rely on voluntary contributions, the mob bosses might have to get themselves another no-show job to make ends meet.

  • Right to remain silent
    Seems this arguement could be turned around. If an individual has the right to remain silent (an extention of ones freedom of speech) and if that individual money is being taken against their will and used for political speech, then it is violating his roght to remain silent. The logic is certainly as sound as the aguement being made by the unions.
  • What?
    Did they really say that? Bhhhahahahahahah....Union thugs and punks!
  • Forcing is the same
    I believe you misread his comment. He said McDonald's being able to FORCE you to buy a burger so they can pay for advertising is the same thing.
  • Who Pays For a Corporations Free Speeck
    That is the most nonsensical argument I have ever heard. Don't want to fund the Koch brothers, don't buy dixie cups. Free speech and freedom of association upheld unlike forced dues to work at a job. That is coercion and those dues being used for purposes other than direct union representation (i.e. bargaining with the employer entity) should be illegal. The unions by engaging in political speech are committing fraud on their members.

  • sanity check
    > no one has to provide services without just
    > compensation

    Wait a moment. The way the union is arguing this point, they seem to be claiming that if someone walks into your house uninvited and sweeps your kitchen floor, you must pay them for their service.

    If that's true, then it would effectively end all volunteer work of any kind in the state, whether it be roadside litter cleanup or volunteering at a church charity.
  • They ARE people because they're incorporated.
    They are people, Debbie. Unions are corporations - big, wealthy corporations. But arguing that their right to free speech equals a right to receive compulsory dues payments to fund the speech is like arguing that McDonald's can force you by law to buy Big Macs so they can keep funding their advertising.

  • re: the Dixie Cup example
    Paying a fee in order to be able to work is the same as voluntarily buying a Dixie Cup? Huh? Was that take written by a union attorney? The absurd logic seems right on par with this lunacy. Don't call MENSA, they'll call you.

    PFH on your DLA
    • How absurd
      How absurd. They are basically arguing that they have the right to have unwilling people fund their "free speech". What about the unwilling participants rights not to associate? Apparently that is of less importance. Your free speech shouldn't literally come at the expense of others.
    • Who Pays For a Corporations Free Speeck
      Just who does Adam Skaggs think ultimately pays for the "free speech" of the Koch brothers and their ilk? Every time one purchases a Dixie paper product, for example, one helps to fund the Koch brothers free speech, enabled by the "Citizens United" decision, whether the purchaser agrees with them or not. To add further insult the that situation, the billionaire Koch brothers are considered to be small business, as defined by the government, because they are an LLC (or pass-through) corporation that pays taxes based on the individual rate only (no corporate tax here. Just watch how "Citizens United" wrecks havoc on the electoral process this year, by drowning out any semblance of rational debate. If for no other reason than balance, I wish the unions success with this legal challenge.
      • unions/corporations
        I have worked in government/ military & private sector- union & non union. Unions are necessary for the protection of the workers! Corporations ARE NOT PEOPLE!! If however they can be declared as People than by the same rights SO MUST UNIONS BE DECLARED AS PEOPLE!!
        • Unions provide entertainment
          I used to believe that unions add no value; however, I now think differently. They can be very entertaining if you actually read some of their latest fiction...
        • Dumbest lawsuit ever!
          In an unrelated but completely corollary story, I am announcing that I'm suing the Hoosier Lottery because I haven't won the jackpot thereby infringing upon my rights to freedom of religion because I can't give as much money as I'd like to the church of my choice.

          Unions are filled with lazy, extremist, 'give me everything in exchange for nothing' morons, but these buffoons take the cake.
        • Unions are Socialist and Communist
          Once again the criminal unions are using their typical tactics and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars by tying up dollars in court. Since its been proven that the American public has no use for unions or the corruption that accompanies their kind, the unions are using these costly tactics to force their way. The right to free speech does not come with a monetary cost. Try free speech at a union rally and see what it gets you. Unless the cops are close by you will get a whoopin by some union thug. Maybe even by the unionized cops. The unions know they are becoming extinct and the union leaders are loosing their foothold. They are as un-american as Putin or Stalin. They have become pawns to the dollar and not to what made America strong. Say bye Bye unions...
        • Some one should have done their homework
          While the Freedom of Sp[each thing is way off base, I forsee this being overturned. Federal mandate states that the union has to represent every employee. State Constitution states that you can not force someone to provide a service without compensation. Right to Work says you no longer have to pay for the services (however poor they be) that Federal mandates says the Union has to provide; which now puts the employee in violation of Indiana State Constitution. I do not care that much for Unions, and if you work for a company that has one and you don't like it either; learn how to have a vote called to have them removed.
        • Valerie
          What's the joke...oh yeah. We should limit politicians to 2 terms.....one in office and one in prison. Sure works in Illinois!!!
        • Unions
          What a croc! Only 37% of Indiana's constructions want unions and when we pay previaling rate, the taxpayer gets ripped. Freedon of speech my rear end....just like Obamacare...no one wants it but it's the very small number of people who think the majority is stupid and can't take care of themselves. The joke's on the union. I'll be back with a word that underscores union mentality.
        • Force the Workers to Pay for "Free" Speech
          Talk about turning things on their head. In essence, the Union now argues that workers should be forced to pay for the Union to speak? THAT would be a violation of the Constitution.
        • Morally Corrupt Unions
          Isn't it interesting that it is a Union out of corrupt Illinois that's bringing the law suit.
        • Rights...
          The right to free speech is an INDIVIDUAL right. A union is not an individual, and as such, unions do not have any right to free speech, only the individuals that comprise the union have that right.

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