Helen Whalen Cohen
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Attornies for the International Union of Operating Engineers argued in an Indiana Court yesterday that the states right to work laws violate the free speech of unions. Their reasoning? If dues are voluntary, the union could get less money, stifling its ability to pay for political speech. Of course, if everyone who was required to give part of their wages to the union approved of the political message that the union promulgated, then right to work laws wouldn't pose a threat, right?

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."

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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.

What's really amusing is that the International Union of Operating Engineers cited the Citizens United Supreme Court decision to make their argument. Of course, while that decision loosened restrictions on corporate and union spending on political campaigns, it does not mandate that unwilling individuals be forced to subsidize someone else's speech. James Bopp, who argued Citizens United before the Supreme Court told the AP that, "[t]he free speech is for you to speak...its not that you have the authority to have others pay for it".

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Helen Whalen Cohen

Helen Whalen Cohen is Associate Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com.