Union argues that Indiana right-to-work law infringes on free, er, subsidized speech

Give the Union of Operating Engineers full marks for creativity — and perhaps an even higher grade for unintended transparency.  The Indiana union has filed suit to block the state’s new right-to-work law, claiming that making dues payments voluntary rather than a requirement for working in a union shop infringes on their First Amendment right to free speech.  How?  Why, it cuts their funding for free speech:

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.” …

“In this case, the state of Indiana restricted a channel of speech-supporting finance,” the union brief maintains. “The Union legitimately utilizes dues money collected through the agency shop provisions in its collective bargaining agreements, in part, to finance political speech The Indiana Right to Work law prohibits agency shop agreements, and that prohibition restricts a channel through which speech-supporting finance might flow.”

Well, then the union infringed on my free speech by never advertising on Captain’s Quarters back in the day!  See how this works?  Free speech, according to this view, depends on funding.  What’s next?  A government mandate to buy a newspaper subscription?  After all, if you don’t get a dead tree delivered to your doorstep each day, you may be infringing on a newspaper’s rights to free speech and liberal editorial policies!  (Wait — maybe I shouldn’t give this administration any more ideas on mandates …)

Here’s an in interesting question to pose in response to this argument.  Even if one accepted for argument’s sake that the First Amendment guarantees an income stream to fund whatever speech one wants to make, what about the employee’s right to free association, which is implied in the First Amendment’s right to peaceable assembly, as noted in a number of Supreme Court cases?  Some employees may not want to associate with the union and participate in their speech; why should they be forced into an association with them?  It seems to me that this would be a stronger argument than the “free speech requires an income stream” argument.

We’ve noted this a number of times when people mistake private editorial choices for infringement of the right to free speech.  The right to free speech does not include the right to publication, or of revenue either resulting from or in service to that speech.  The act of refusing to join does not keep the union from expressing itself.  It just means that they may not have access to the best platforms from which to deliver that speech, which puts them in the same boat as everyone else.  Perhaps they should spend more time convincing people to support them voluntarily than in getting courts to forcibly extract cash from workers in order to pursue their own political purposes.

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