Freedom: Could new ‘opt out’ ruling cripple unions? Wayne Baker is traveling and welcomes back popular guest columnist Terry Gallagher.

The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a new decision that is criticized by many as an overreaching assault on the rights of working people. This ruling moves in the direction of crippling unions, these critics argue. Defenders of this ruling argue that it is an essential re-affirmation of individuals’ rights.

The case revolved around one of the basic issues in an “agency shop,” where all workers in a unit organized by a union pay the equivalent of union dues to cover the costs of negotiating and defending their contracts whether they choose to be members of the union or not. In this case, all the workers covered by the contract also were assessed a fee to cover political advocacy—over and above the costs of representation—with the option of opting out of that fee. In the end, however, many workers found themselves contributing to political campaigns they didn’t support.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 “that when a union imposes a special assessment not previously disclosed, not only must the union provide a new notice but non-members must affirmatively ‘opt-in’ to paying the assessment, contrary to the long-standing ‘opt-out’ rule in the union dues context.”

Two justices traditionally considered part of the court’s liberal wing, Sotomayer and Ginsburg, joined the majority. They shared in their own separate opinion on the case (opening lines of it are shown in the photo above). Overall, this strong 7-2 majority looks like a slam dunk for individual liberty, the notion that no one should be compelled to support a cause or candidate they don’t like.

On the other hand, many people see the decision as the thin end of a wedge aimed at destroying the ability of workers to come together to fight for their common interests.

What do you think about this ruling?
Should we make it harder for unions to fund political action?
Could our defense of the freedom to ‘opt out’ wind up crippling unions?

Originally published at, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.

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