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Unions, Corporations, and the First Amendment: A Response to Professors Fisk and Chemerinsky

In its 2012 ruling in Knox v. SEIU Local 1000, the Supreme Court signaled that major changes may be coming to the body of First Amendment law governing public-sector unions’ relationships with nonmember employees who work in the bargaining units that those unions represent. The Court’s actual holding in Knox was not the most portentous feature of the case but was significant in its own right: when a public-sector union wishes to levy a midyear dues increase or special assessment, “the union must provide a fresh Hudson notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.” When collecting regularly scheduled annual fees, unions have long been allowed to presume that a nonmember employee is willing to help pay for the union’s political activities unless the employee tells the union otherwise and thereby opts out of helping to cover that nonchargeable portion of the union’s costs. The Court’s insistence upon an opt-in arrangement for midyear dues increases and special assessments thus came as something of a surprise.

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