by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A railway worker is petitioning the Supreme Court to stop unions from forcing members and nonmembers to fund union political lobbying against their will.
The worker asks the Court to draw on its 2018 Janus decision, which barred public sector employers from mandatory union dues on First Amendment grounds. The petition, filed Tuesday, argues the 5-4 ruling did not go far enough in cracking down on union attempts to subvert right-to-work laws through mandatory dues deductions.
“This case is an ideal vehicle to resolve the exceptionally important question whether the First Amendment or the [Railway Labor Act] protects hundreds of thousands of railway and airline employees from having to opt out of subsidizing expressive associations’ political and ideological activities,” the petition states.
The petition aims to have the Court rule that “window periods,” or the brief period of time when workers have to opt out of the union, are unconstitutional. If workers do not opt out during the required “window period,” then dues are automatically deducted from their paychecks.
The appeal comes as the Court signals its support for the First Amendment rights of union workers. But it could come into conflict with a Biden administration that is increasingly pro-union, along with a federal labor arbiter that critics say has become politicized following Biden’s unprecedented firing of GOP appointees. Biden’s support for the PRO Act, which is currently languishing in the Senate after the House of Representatives passed it, puts him at odds with right-to-work laws enacted by more than half of the states in the country. The passage of the act would eliminate those laws.
The petition argues the Supreme Court should clarify the application of the rights to free speech and association within the workplace.