It is perfectly OK to require unions to get permission from workers before spending their dues on political activity, the U.S. Supreme Court said this week in a unanimous decision. Yet when Dennis ruled that unions obtain permission annually from every member before making donations to political campaigns from their “small-donor” committees, the outcry was such you’d have thought she’d raided Fort Knox. We agreed with critics that she acted without sufficient public debate, but we never doubted the basic good sense of her decision.
Nevertheless, the courts went against Dennis, with the state appeals court making the absurd argument that “(The secretary’s rule) effectively denies the First Amendment rights of the majority of union members for the benefit of dissenting members.” Memo to the court: The First Amendment protects an individual right to free speech, not the right of a majority to bully a minority into subsidizing speech it doesn’t like.
I’m in wholesale agreement with the Rocky‘s editors on this well-substantiated point. Nevertheless, they made a pessimistic observation that failed to take into account the voice of Colorado’s people:
Last week’s ruling won’t make much difference in Colorado, since this legislature isn’t about to approve a bill lessening union influence in politics.
The Davenport U.S. Supreme Court decision could give Coloradans the go-ahead to put forward support for Ask First as a statewide ballot initiative. Because we can all agree on the concluding point in the Rocky editorial:
“We believe there was an important public policy question at stake in this case, and that’s what caused us to write an amicus brief,” said Attorney General John Suthers. “No Coloradan . . . should be required to contribute to political issues or candidates without their consent.”