In June 2012 the United States Supreme Court announced its decision in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, reversing the Ninth Circuit 7-2. The case concerned a union special assessment for a "Political Fight Back Fund" that nonmember California state employees were required to pay as a condition of employment. The Court held 5-4, in a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, that "when a public sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union must provide [a notice of the purpose of the assessment or increase] and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent." The Court also held that the union could not constitutionally charge the nonmembers for its expenses opposing ballot questions even if they "may be said to have an effect on present and future contracts between public-sector workers and their employers." Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, concurred in the judgment, but agreed only that "[w]hen a public-sector union imposes a special assessment intended to fund solely political lobbying efforts, the First Amendment requires that the union provide nonmembers an opportunity to opt out of the contribution of funds." Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented. Our experts discussed the ramifications of the case.
- Mr. Dominic Parella, Hogan Lovells LLP
- Mr. W. James Young, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
- Moderator: Mr. Dean Reuter, Vice President & Director of Practice Groups, The Federalist Society