Sixth Circuit decision upholds union dues law

adapted from Americans for Limited Government

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Michigan law that bars public schools from collecting union dues, overturning a district court injunction against implementation of the law. The circuit court also ordered the lowered court to uphold the law.

The law in question requires that public sector unions collect their own dues from public school teachers, rather than the school’s payroll system handling it. The unions argued that not compelling as a matter of law teachers to pay up somehow violated the labor organization’s First Amendment Rights.

The Sixth Circuit responded: “The problem with this theory is that the Supreme Court has already rejected it,” citing the 2009 Ysursa, Secretary of State of Idaho v. Pocatello Education Association ruling that stated “The First Amendment prohibits government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech’; it does not confer an affirmative right to use government payroll mechanisms for the purpose of obtaining funds for expression.”

The Sixth Circuit applied Ysursa, saying, “Public Act 53 does not restrict the unions’ speech at all: they remain free to speak about whatever they wish,” noting that nothing in the First Amendment mandates that public payroll deductions be given to unions.

According to Findlaw’s summary of Ysursa

“Idaho’s Right to Work Act permits public employees to authorize payroll deductions for general union dues, but prohibits such deductions for union political activities. Respondents -- a group of Idaho public employee unions-— sued, alleging that the ban on payroll deductions for political activities violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court upheld the ban at the state level, but struck it down as it applies to local governments. In affirming, the Ninth Circuit stated that, while Idaho has the ultimate control over local governmental units, it did not actually operate or control their payroll deduction systems. The court applied strict scrutiny to hold that the statute was unconstitutional as applied at the local level.

“Held: Idaho's ban on political payroll deductions, as applied to local governmental units, does not infringe the unions’ First Amendment rights. Pp. 5-11.”