Supreme Court Soon to Rule on Knox v. SEIU

SEIU Political Fundraising Mechanism Operates Unconstitutionally, Says Horace Cooper of National Center for Public Policy Research

Washington, DC – The United States Supreme Court will shortly issue a ruling in Knox v. SEIU, a California case about the misuse of compulsory union dues and the subject of a new National Policy Analysis paper by National Center for Public Policy Research Adjunct Fellow Horace Cooper.

In Knox v. SEIU, the court will decide whether the Service Employees International Union (or any union) can issue temporary hikes in union dues or issue special short-term assessments for political advocacy without 1) giving employees formal notice that they can object, and 2) whether a union should be allowed to charge interim assessments to employees who had objected during the last round of notices.

“Every state and local employee is entitled under the law to object to their compulsory union dues being used for political advocacy when it is unrelated to collective bargaining,” said Cooper. “Unfortunately for workers in California represented by the Service Employers International Union, this right has been denied them, as the SEIU has consistently used sleight of hand techniques to hike union dues in order to push a left-wing political agenda — one that goes well beyond collective bargaining.”

In Cooper’s National Policy Analysis paper, “Do Free Speech Rights Apply to Union Members, Too? In Knox v. SEIU, Supreme Court Soon to Rule on SEIU Funding Gimmicks,” Cooper argues that the Supreme Court will likely strike down the practice of state unions using either temporary or special assessments as a way to get around the requirement that employees be given a formal right to object to any of their fees being uses for political advocacy or activity unrelated to union representation.

“Instead of giving state employees a chance to object, the SEIU engaged in deceptive techniques in order to get away with raising union dues that they know workers would never voluntarily agree to,” argues Cooper. “The First Amendment prevents the government from forcing any American to fund political advocacy. The SEIU cannot use its collective bargaining authority to overturn this right and the Supreme Court will reinforce this fundamental freedom,” Cooper added.

“Household budgets are being hit hard enough during this economic downturn without families having to be forced through ‘short term or interim assessment hikes’ to fund left-wing initiatives and political activities that have nothing to do with getting better benefits and wages,” Cooper concludes.

Cooper notes that the Courts have consistently upheld the right of employees to object to the use of compulsory dues for non-union representation purposes.

Cooper’s new paper, “Do Free Speech Rights Apply to Union Members, Too? In Knox v. SEIU, Supreme Court Soon to Rule on SEIU Funding Gimmicks,” is available online at

Horace Cooper is an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a member of the African-American leadership group Project 21 and a legal commentator. He taught constitutional law at George Mason University in Virginia and was a senior counsel to U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

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