by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The John Locke Foundation and 12 other public policy organizations across the nation are joining forces to support a nationally significant court case promoting workers’ rights. These 13 groups are among a total of 22 organizations supporting the case for protecting workers’ freedom.
The 13 organizations all have signed on to an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief in the case of Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine. The brief asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
“The John Locke Foundation’s fundamental purpose is to advance liberty and promote freedom — including the freedom of workers to choose whether or not they want to join a labor union,” said JLF CEO Amy O. Cooke. “No one should be forced to support views to which he fundamentally objects.”
Plaintiff Jonathan Reisman is a University of Maine professor. He’s challenging his state’s exclusive bargaining law. It requires Reisman to accept a faculty union’s advocacy as his own. This is despite the fact that Reisman objects to union representation. He opposes its advocacy on his behalf.
The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibits this type of compelled representation. Yet the Supreme Court sanctioned this infringement of basic rights nearly 50 years ago. At the time, the court argued that the infringement was necessary to promote the compelling state interest of “labor peace.” The high court never attempted to define or justify that term.
In 2018, the Supreme Court took an important first step toward reversing course. In the Janus case, justices held that it is a clear violation of an employee’s First Amendment rights to be forced associate with a union he/she does not support. Yet lower courts nationwide continue to deny many workers their fundamental right to speak and advocate on their own behalf. For this reason, the Supreme Court should take up the Reisman case and clarify that compelled representation is also an unjustifiable violation of the First Amendment.
“The John Locke Foundation believes any organization — including a labor union — should earn support through people’s free choices, not through government-sanctioned forced representation,” said Cooke.
In addition to the brief signed by JLF and 12 other groups, nine other public policy organizations have filed briefs supporting the plaintiffs’ arguments in the case.