Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

July 2, 2014

Ruling could be beginning of end for public unions

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court is perfecting the art of the courtroom striptease.

Earlier this session, it shed yet another layer of campaign-finance law, striking down limits on the total amount that individuals may contribute to political candidates and parties. Reading between the lines of the 5-4 decision in that case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, suggests that the whole legal foundation upon which all campaign regulations are constructed, 1976’s Buckley v. Valeo, may yet crumble.

On Monday the court’s majority was at it again, this time peeling off another layer of U.S. labor law. In Harris v. Quinn, the court made the right move in finding that Illinois home health-care workers, as “partial public employees,” can’t be compelled to pay union fees, as other public employees are. The ruling follows a 2012 Supreme Court decision limiting the rights of unions to increase their fees without proper notice. And it sets up the question — already working its way through the federal courts — of whether a 1977 court decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which upheld government’s authority to compel government employees to pay union dues, should be overturned.

In about half the states, public employees are required to pay the fees, though they can opt out of paying for their union’s political campaigns and lobbying activity. The home health-care workers who brought the suit argued that any mandatory union fee violates their First Amendment rights, because petitioning the government — including lobbying over work rules and benefits — is inherently political. A government employee, the argument goes, who supports giving workers the right to choose a 401(k)-style retirement plan instead of a traditional public pension should not be forced to support a union that opposes it.

The Supreme Court could have overturned Abood by ruling that any forced payment violates workers’ First Amendment rights. But, as in McCutcheon, it narrowly tailored its decision while casting aspersion on the 1970s-era precedent. The majority called Abood an “anomaly” resting on “questionable foundations,” charging that the 1977 court had “seriously erred” in its reading of precedents, which it “fundamentally misunderstood.”

Text Only
Opinion
  • Pensions need to be addressed I will have to admit that I am slightly overwhelmed today with the receipt of articles and suggestions for a column. One of my Fitness Mafia colleagues constantly tells me the columns are too long and trying to address different subjects just dilutes

    July 22, 2014

  • VA still failing our vets Jymm’s preferred attire is a skin-tight Minnie Mouse T-shirt with bright pink windbreaker pants. Even when not sporting his choice outfit, he dons short shorts and shirts with holes in them, because that’s what he finds most comfortable. His Santa Mo

    July 22, 2014

  • Feed your home piggy bank with a 15-year mortgage This summer, we finally decided to take the plunge we’d been contemplating for a while: converting our 30-year mortgage to one with a 15-year payoff. It’s a big step. Our payments will go up somewhat (the PITI — principal, interest, tax, and insuranc

    July 19, 2014

  • Under the dumb There is a TV series about an entire town trapped under a giant, mysterious crystal-clear dome that appears out of the blue one day. The dome is impenetrable; no one can get in, no one can get out. Who made the dome? Aliens? God? A super-secret branc

    July 19, 2014

  • Widening the loopholes This week, two more U.S. companies moved to reestablish themselves overseas, allowing them to pursue lower corporate tax rates. They will join dozens of others who have chased lower tax bills abroad while maintaining operations in the United States,

    July 19, 2014

  • Patriotism not questioned Editor:I am responding to Mayor Mary Jane Chesley’s Reader’s View article in the Thursday, June 19, 2014, Register-News “Patriotism is strong.”The mayor has missed the point of my Reader’s View/opinion article in the local newspapers regarding Flag D

    July 19, 2014

  • Who's telling a story now? For this administration, failure is always the result of a “communications” problem. Otherwise, failure might be taken as evidence of misguided ideology and incompetent execution, right? It’s a weird excuse for the president who fancies himself to be

    July 18, 2014

  • Why cutting corporate taxes won't help the middle class WASHINGTON — Earlier this week, I testified in front of the Joint Economic Committee on the topic of assessing the recovery after five years.As you can imagine, congressional testimony can be pretty frustrating these days for members of the fact-base

    July 18, 2014

  • Heart of darkness in buffer zone BOSTON — “Be careful. This is a dangerous corner.”It’s not until you visit the Boston Planned Parenthood clinic at the heart of the recent Supreme Court buffer-zone case that you realize the unnecessary danger it created. And I’m not even inside.On t

    July 18, 2014

  • When should U.S. use force? Was the Iraq war the greatest strategic error in recent decades, as some pundits have suggested recently? The simple answer is no. That honor belongs to the failure to take action against al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden before the attacks that killed ne

    July 17, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks