21 Groups Join Supreme Court Case Against Public-Sector Unions for Free Speech Violations

Twenty-one policy groups filed amicus briefs Wednesday and joined the Buckeye Institute’s Supreme Court Case that could affect every public-sector labor union in the country.

Included among the 21 policy groups are some of the most influential think tanks, advocacy organizations, and conservative institutes in the country. 18 of the organizations filed as one coalition, while the National Association of Scholars, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund all filed separately.

The case, Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization, alleges that public-sector unions are suppressing the free speech of workers.

In Minnesota, under the Minnesota Statutes of the labor industry, Chapter 179A, Section .03, Subdivision 8 (Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 8.) and several similar statutes, labor unions have the right to act as the exclusive representative of all workers in that given organization. If a worker has an issue with his or her employer, he or she is compelled to address this issue through the union representative, even if the worker is not a member of that union. The overwhelming majority of states have similar statutes.

The Buckeye Institute is representing Kathy Uradnik, a professor of political science at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Professor Uradnik chose not to join her university’s union, the Inter Faculty Organization (IFO). When she attempted to volunteer for the various faculty committees offered at her institution, she was denied and turned away.

It was at this point she discovered that the union had written into the employment contracts that any employee who refuses to join the union is barred from serving on any faculty committee. Uradnik filed her legal complaint on July 6, 2018. She made a short video discussing her reasons for pursuing the case. Her main criticism is that she feels the union is infringing upon her free speech rights.

The case quickly moved to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit of Ohio where, according to a Buckeye Institute press release, “the Buckeye Institute requested that the Court of Appeals quickly deny its motion so the case could be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

A major factor, in this case, is the recent Supreme Court decision of Janus v. AFSCME.

This landmark court case made it illegal for public-sector unions to force non-union workers to pay “agency fees.” Essentially, a union cannot force a non-union employee to pay union dues. This 5-4 decision overturned a unanimous 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which upheld a union’s right to charge nonunion employees for “apolitical” services.

Critics of Janus v. AFSCME. and Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization argue that rulings made against public-sector unions will cripple their ability to advocate for the rights of workers and that the ultimate goal is the destruction of collective bargaining.

However, individuals like Uradnik and organizations like the Buckeye Institute, believe that sublimating the free speech rights of workers to the will of public-sector unions is unconstitutional and forces workers to be represented by organizations that may argue against their personal interests.

The Supreme Court has not yet announced if they will take up the case.

In response to the filings, Andrew M. Grossman, counsel of record in this case said:

The support Professor Uradnik’s case has received confirms it is deserving of review by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the lower courts’ refusal to acknowledge that forced exclusive representation violates the First Amendment calls for the Supreme Court’s intervention

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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to aashirley1809@gmail.com.
Photo “Kathy Uradnik” by The Buckeye Institute.







Andrew Shirley

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Andrew Shirley

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