Supreme setback for union tactic designed to raise campaign funds

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Unions must allow nonmembers to object to unexpected fee increases or special assessments all workers are required to pay in closed-shops, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In such workplaces — that is organizations in which union membership is required for the duration of a member's employment there — nonmembers have a First Amendment right to opt out of fund contributions, the Court decided in a 7-2 vote.

The case was brought by nonmembers of the Service Employees International Union's Local 1000. They objected to paying an unexpected $12 million assessment for use in political campaigning.

"When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment intended to fund solely political lobbying efforts, the First Amendment requires that the union provide non-members an opportunity to opt out of the contribution of funds," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who agreed with the judgment. The ruling reverses an earlier decision by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.