The U.S. Supreme Court last year took from unions the power to demand money from government employees.
Now the unions could lose the power to control employees’ communications with their employer.
In a case before the Supreme Court, Kathleen Uradnik, a professor at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State, is seeking to uphold the right to speak freely with her employer on whatever topic she chooses.
She’s barred from doing that because the university recognizes a union, the Inter Faculty Organization, as the exclusive agent for professors.
The Pacific Legal Foundation explained that the professor “doesn’t belong to the union. She doesn’t agree with its positions, and she doesn’t support its activities. The union doesn’t get a penny of Uradnik’s paycheck. So why should the union get to speak on her behalf?”
It’s because a court in Minnesota ruled the union is the “exclusive representative” of all faculty at the school, “whether they like it or not,” PLF said.
“This means the union speaks on behalf of union members and nonmembers alike, and by law the university can listen only to the union. If Uradnik wants to talk to her employer about her wages or hours, she can put up a billboard, hire a skywriter, or shout it from the rooftops, but the university must ignore her since she is not the exclusive representative,” the report said.
That policy, however, has constitutional problems, PLF reported.
“Exclusive representation silences workers and puts up a wall between them and their employer. The Supreme Court just last year called out exclusive representation in its landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, but lower courts are still ignoring the First Amendment rights of workers to choose who speaks for them,” the group said.
The organization’s brief to the court in support of Uradnik points out the Supreme Court “has repeatedly called into question schemes which compel public-sector workers to associate with labor unions against their will.”
It continues, “The Constitution firmly guards the First Amendment rights of individuals and groups – the state may not prohibit ideas it disfavors or compel endorsement of ideas it approves.
“A governmental interest in favoring one form of speech over another is constitutionally illegitimate,” the brief explained. “The court’s focus should be on the nonmembers, like Uradnik, forced to associate with IFO through exclusive representation. Unlike individual workers, who have constitutionally protected rights to present their own views on an equal basis with others, ‘collective bargaining is not a fundamental right.'”
In the case, “the exclusive representation scheme seizes Uradnik’s First Amendment rights and hands them over to a union she does not support and is not a member of.”
“The right to speak and associate are among the most fundamental rights protected by the Constitution, and this court should take this case to carefully consider whether exclusive representation is compatible with its strong protection of these individual rights.”