The State of Disunion
The Big Decision isn’t until tomorrow, but the Supreme Court has had a busy and productive session, with a plethora of cases that will have significant impact in the coming years.
One of the cases I previewed, Knox v. Service Employees International Union, will affect the ability of unions to involve themselves in the democratic process in America. If corporations are people, because people own corporations and get dividends from them, then surely unions are people, since the point of unions is to represent the interests of their members. That being the case, if corporations can provide unlimited funding for campaign contributions, under the assumption that they represent the interests of their shareholders, it seems reasonable for unions to do so as well. Or does it?
In 2010, unions were outspent by corporations fourteen to one. Apparently seeing this as a dangerously narrow ratio, various corporate-backed politicians have been doing their part to strip unions of even this much influence, perhaps by doing away with unions completely. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has allowed corporations and wealthy individual to spend as much as they want.
Unions had one final tool in their box. When emergency situations came up, unions could require dues-paying members to temporarily pay more. This apparently included sudden costs relating to political expenses. That is, until last week.
In a five-to-four ruling, the Supreme Court has decided unions must inform their membership of upcoming political expenses, and allow them to opt out, under the theory that some union members might otherwise be compelled to fund political speech they disagree with. (Apparently this concern does not apply to employees or shareholders of corporations.)
Two Justices, concurring in the judgment, criticized the majority for adopting an opt-in system of fee collection which was “not contained in the questions presented, briefed, or argued.”
Two Justices, dissenting, pointed out that unions have always been allowed to calculate each year’s fee based on its expenses during the previous year. Although an imperfect system, it is not unconstitutional.
Despite these objections, five Supreme Court Justices have made a decision that will further limit the ability of unions to participate in our national discussion.
What do you think of the decision? Is there a conscious political effort underway to cripple unions? If so, is that desirable?
Should political contributions by corporations and unions be limited? Earlier this week, the Court ruled that states could not create such limits. Should Congress act? Do we need a Constitutional Amendment?
Or is it proper and desirable that our politics and our public discourse should be dominated and controlled and bankrolled by corporate interests and the owners of corporate interests?
- SCOTUS swats down public sector unions(hotair.com)
- Supreme Court Ruling Could Cut Back Unions’ Political Speech(huffingtonpost.com)
- Surprise: SCOTUS strikes down limits on corporate campaign spending… again(theblaze.com)
- An angel gets its wings: SCOTUS rules against Big Labor in SEIU smackdown(twitchy.com)
- Supreme Court Watch: Salinas v. Texas
- Supreme Court Watch: United States v. Windsor
- Supreme Court Watch: Hollingsworth v. Perry
- Supreme Court Watch: Shelby County v. Holder
- Supreme Court Watch: Millbrook v. United States
- Supreme Court Watch: Levin v. United States
- Supreme Court Watch: Maracich v. Spears
- Supreme Court Watch: Missouri v. McNeely
- Ballot Watch: Unions
- Supreme Court to Rule on PPACA Today
About dcpetterson (186 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson