Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Difference between Union and Corporation Political Speech

Union and corporate First Amendment rights towards political spending (speech) are treated very differently, but there are reasons for those decisions. The Supreme Court has held that unions can charge non-members dues to help cover “collective bargaining costs”. The reason for this is to prevent “free riders” who get the collective bargaining advantages at no cost. However the Court has also held that unions cannot charge non-members dues that will be used to support political speech since non-members may have different political views. That being said, corporate stockholders do not receive the same type of protections as union nonmembers. Corporations are free to invest in political speech anyway the board of trustees sees fit regardless of how stockholders may feel about their choice of political speech. It is important to point out that there are many reasons why the Court has made decisions that seem more favorable to corporations.

Citizens United, decided in 2010, provides that both Unions and Corporations are allowed unlimited donations to political campaigns and referendum initiatives. However, the line of cases Aboad v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), Keller v. State Bar of California (1990), and Knox v. SEIU (2012) set the precedent explained in the first paragraph restricting non-union member’s fees. In Board of Regents University of Wisconsin v. Southworth (2000), the Court held that mandatory member fees can be collected if the political speech is “viewpoint neutral”. Unfortunately, Union speech is not “viewpoint neutral”, but corporate speech is much more “viewpoint neutral” than union speech: about 40% of United States business owners are Democrats. In the last presidential election Clinton received more than 75% of the corporate contributions. Unions back Democrats candidates 100% of the time.

So why is okay to have what the Left calls an “un-level playing field” between Unions and Corporations other than “viewpoint neutral” speech. First, according to one article there is a distinction between government and private employees: “The First Amendment is a limit on government power, and it does not directly affect private agreements, whether between companies and shareholders or between private employers and their workers.”

Secondly, there is a big difference between a union member worker and a shareholder. Specifically, the shareholder can choose and buy and sell any stock or mutual fund it likes. A worker is much more restricted because leaving and starting new jobs is not quite as easy as pushing enter on a computer screen. Union fees are compulsory whereas stock purchasing is a private and personal decision.

Third, a corporation does not charge stockholders fees, but instead works to make the investor money through capital gains and dividends. A union can also help make money for employees in the same way a company can (pensions, 401K, raises), but they charge their members fees and they cannot earn capital gains or dividends. Unions spend as much as 50% of its dues on political speech, no corporation will spend anywhere near that much on political speech. If a corporation spends 1% on its profits on political speech that would be extremely high.

Finally, shareholders do have a say in the political choices made by a company through the voting proxy system. The same option is not available to union members or nonunion members. In fact, collective bargaining decisions made on behalf of the government worker is done so by a “monopolized” viewpoint. Union members and nonmembers have very little say over any direction of their employer’s decisions; they are completely silenced. Nonunion members should be able to advocate for their own pay and benefits. Government employees are not paid based on how well they perform (merit based system), instead they are paid the same as workers who are underachievers. In my view, Unions should feel lucky they are allowed to collect any dues from nonmembers. There is a distinct difference between a company making money in the private sector for use as political speech and a union making money by stealing from people who do not want to pay the fee for political speech. Unions and corporations are completely different entities with completely different business plans and philosophies. To think laws should be applied “symmetrically” between two vastly different types of groups, companies, and organizations is just being na├»ve.

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