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The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving forced unionization in Illinois. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation ( MCLF) and two other organizations requested that the Court hear the case. The MCLF, along with The Cato Institute and the National Federation of Independent Business, have filed an amicus brief. The case was filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of several thousand home-based caregivers in Illinois who were shanghaied into a union in order to help fund the AFSCME and the SEIU.
“We were in the middle of a similar legal battle here in Michigan at the time and we knew that the same problem was occurring in other states,” Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said. “It needs to be settled on a national level and the Supreme Court needs to make it clear that forcing people into a public-sector union against their will simply because a portion of their income is derived from public dollars is unconstitutional.”
The forced unionization of home-based caregivers in Michigan ended last March, with the passage of a Right to Work law. But, before the law could go into effect, the SEIU pulled a fast one and skimmed more than $34 million in “dues” from Medicaid checks intended to help the state’s most vulnerable residents. The SEIU tried to insert this scheme into the Michigan Constitution through Proposal 4, on last November’s ballot, but the organization is now under investigation. And,Prop 4 was defeated by 14 percentage points.
“Unfortunately we’ve dealt with two dubious unionization efforts here in Michigan over the past four years,” Wright said, adding that, “unions for a while captured home-based day care providers. It has occurred in other states and the Supreme Court has seen the value in weighing in on the matter.”
Wright argues that the Supreme Court should rule that forced unionization is unconstitutional, given that receiving public money does not make a person a public employee. “If the unions can get away with this, then who can’t they unionize? Doctors who accept Medicaid or Medicare? Grocers who accept food stamps? It’s preposterous that a private person could be forced into a public-sector union against their will just because their client receives government aid.”
The Labor Management Relations Act, commonly referred to as the Taft-Hartley Act, was passed in 1947 for the purpose of addressing unfair labor practices that ensued following the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935. The NLRA’s agenda benefited unions, but the same could not be said in regard to the rights of workers who opposed attempts to unionize workplaces. The government should not show preference for the rights of those who wish to be unionized over those who do not.
Section 302 of Taft-Hartley addresses corruption between unions and employers by prohibiting employers from giving “any money or thing of value” to a union seeking to represent its employees. A 40-year employee for the Mardi Gras greyhound racetrack and casino in Hollywood, Florida, Martin Mulhall, opposes the efforts of Local 355 to unionize the company’s employees. His wishes to not be unionized are just as valid and constitutionally protected as the desires of those who advocate unionization–and this epitomizes the Taft-Hartley Act.
According to Trevor Burrus, writing for The Cato Institute:
“Mr. Mulhall alleges that, in violation of Section 302, Local 355 and Mardi Gras exchanged “things of value” in order to smooth the path to unionization. In exchange for the union agreeing not to picket, boycott, or strike against Mardi Gras, as well as for financially supporting a ballot initiative that legalized slot machine gambling, Mardi Gras agreed to support Local 355’s efforts to organize its employees. Specifically, Mardi Gras gave the union access to employee records and to its facilities in order to engage in organizing efforts during non-working hours. Additionally, and most crucially, Mardi Gras agreed to waive its right to a secret-ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board as well as its right to contest any unfair labor practices committed by the union during the process of organizing the workers.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether these are ‘things of value’ exchanged in violation of Section 302.”
Cato has filed an amicus brief, in support of Martin Mulhall, and the National Federation for Independent Business has joined them. It is argued that not only are Mardi Gras’s concessions undoubtedly “things of value,” they are the sort of exchanges that the Taft-Hartley Act was passed to prevent.
While unions do have the right to try to organize employees, they should not be allowed to encroach on the rights of dissenters.