WASHINGTON (CNN) –A Washington state law restricting use of union dues for political purposes was upheld Wednesday by the Supreme Court, in a pair of cases that melded free speech, election advocacy and workplace rights.
At issue was whether states could force labor unions to obtain direct permission from workers before having their mandatory "shop fees" spent on partisan politics, including candidates and issues many of them may not support.
"No suppression of ideas is afoot," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, "since the union remains free as any other entity to participate in the electoral process with all available funds other than the state-coerced agency fees lacking affirmative permission."
State officials were among those who brought the high court appeal, on behalf of a few thousand public school teachers who refused to join their union. Under a voter-approved ballot initiative, those non-union workers can still be charged an annual service fee - equal in amount to union dues - but only to help pay for traditional labor negotiations. Those fees cannot be spent on most types of political activities, under the 1992 law, "unless affirmatively authorized by the individual."
The sticking point was how and when teachers must express their opposition to having their fees used to influence elections.
- CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears