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Supreme decisions

"Supreme decisions" Continued...

Issue: "Bleeding economy," Oct. 18, 2008

Existing environmental regulations would "undermine the navy's ability to conduct realistic training exercises that are necessary to ensure the combat effectiveness of carrier and expeditionary strike groups," Bush said in a statement. After lower courts to a large extent affirmed Cooper's original decision, the Bush Justice Department appealed to the high court, arguing that the injunction poses "substantial harm to national security," and that environmental regulations are "not a suicide pact."

Compulsory unionism

The Supreme Court on Oct. 6 heard oral arguments in Locke v. Karass, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund's 14th high court case. The fundamental issue is once again money: Should "agency fee payers"-workers who pay a fee to be covered under a collective bargaining agreement, but who are not actually union members-be forced to pay for the litigation costs of other unions? In 2005, the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA) notified its members of a biweekly "service fee" of $8.94. A portion of that fee would cover MSEA's fee for being classified as an "affiliate" of the Service Employees International Union, an organized labor giant.

In the fine print: The service fee would include the costs of litigation incurred both by MSEA and the Service Employees for issues related to collective bargaining. In practice, that meant that non-members of MSEA would be paying the legal fees not only for their own bargaining unit, but for other unions and affiliates.

"Paying into some big slush fund that's under the control of an international union boss who can decide where and when the money is to be used has absolutely nothing to do with the individual bargaining unit these non-members have already been forced to pay dues to," said Patrick Semmens of National Right to Work.

Courts in the past have ruled that workers cannot be forced to fund speech with which they disagree, Semmens said. "But MSEA has tried to create a crafty kind of accounting method to get around the First Amendment." The 1st Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of MSEA and allowed the service fee to stand. The court was scheduled to hear oral arguments last week.

Another union case this term revisits the continuing dust-up over unions extracting from employees' paychecks money to spend on politics. Usually, such cases pit employees against labor groups, but in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association, a group of public-employee unions is challenging on First Amendment grounds a state law that prohibits unions from forcing members to pay for political activities with which they disagree. NRTW filed an amicus brief in the case, which will be argued Nov. 3.

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