FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Anti-Union Court

by DAVID MACARAY

People who interpret Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ vote not to overturn “Obamacare” as evidence that this enigmatic Justice may, in fact, be more “liberal” than previously thought, need to go back and rethink their position.  Indeed, Roberts and his Court brethren are just as stubbornly pro-business and anti-union as they ever were.

Last month’s ruling in Knox vs. the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) removed all doubt.  In a decision that startled many observers (including Justices Breyer and Kagan), the Court ruled that non-union members should be required to “opt-in” (rather than “opt-out”) before their dues could be used for political purposes.  In this, the Court not only exceeded its own jurisdiction, but demonstrated that it is a nest of anti-union demagogues.

The original issue in Knox vs. the SEIU was whether a union must inform its non-members (in an agency shop, “free riders” receive the same wages and benefits as union members, even if they’re too gutless, selfish or narrow-minded to join) that a surcharge was going to be levied to raise money to defeat two anti-union ballot measures.  The court ruled that these non-members should have been notified of the surcharge in order to be given an opportunity to “opt-out” if they so chose.

As far as it goes, that’s probably a fair ruling.  If not entirely “fair,” then at least legal, in that it’s in accordance with a 1986 Supreme Court decision allowing non-members to withhold that part of their dues earmarked for political purposes.  Although these “free riders” are not permitted to withhold regular monthly dues—money used to pay for the collective bargaining that provides them with the decent wages and benefits they enjoy—they may legally stop that money from being used for other purposes.  So be it.

But the Roberts Court took it to a whole other level.  Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., declared that these non-members should not only be given advance notice of any surcharge, they should, in fact, be given the choice to “opt-in,” rather than “opt-out.”  In other words, they should have to volunteer to pay instead of requesting not to pay, a decision that radically alters the arrangement.

What was so outrageous about Alito’s opinion was that it far exceeded what the plaintiff himself was even asking for.  Knox wasn’t suggesting that the whole process be flip-flopped or jettisoned; rather, all he wanted was to be notified in advance of a surcharge, so he could opt-out of it.  It was Justice Alito who expanded the decision dramatically.

For years, companies have tried to get abstentions counted as “nays” in union certification elections.  You had your Yes votes, you had your No votes, and you had your abstentions.  Not surprisingly, management wanted to count abstentions as automatic No votes (unless the employees “opted-in”).  And that’s more or less what the Roberts Court went and did with this decision.

It’s bad enough allowing freeloaders to reap the benefits of a union shop without having to join up, but the Supreme Court made it worse.  Whereas unions typically assess monthly dues unless a non-member formally opts-out, the Roberts Court told America’s unions that they can’t collect those dues unless the non-member formally opts-in.  Whatever one’s definition of “anti-union,” the Roberts’ Court clearly conforms to it.

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail