Monday, January 18, 2016

Case Could Widen Free-Speech Gap Between Unions and Corporations

By ADAM LIPTAK, NYT, JAN. 18, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Citizens United decision, which amplified the role of money in American politics, also promised something like a level playing field. Both corporations and unions, it said, could spend what they liked to support their favored candidates.

But last week’s arguments in a major challenge to public unions illuminated a gap in the Supreme Court’s treatment of capital and labor. The court has long allowed workers to refuse to finance unions’ political activities. But shareholders have no comparable right to refuse to pay for corporate political speech.

At the arguments in the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915, the justices seemed poised to widen that gap by allowing government workers to refuse to support unions’ collective bargaining activities, too.

The case should prompt a new look at whether the differing treatment of unions and corporations is justified, said Benjamin I. Sachs, a law professor at Harvard.

“If we’re going to make this opt-out right for workers more and more muscular, which is what is going to happen with Friedrichs,” he said, “the question of symmetrical treatment of shareholders just becomes that much more important.

(More here.)

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