In another significant workplace decision, the U.S. Supreme Court protected the right of agency-shop non-union public employees to refrain from funding the union’s political agenda. The effects of this decision could impact the amount of money unions have available to allocate to political causes.
In Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 (SEIU), the SEIU represented a bargaining unit of California public employees under an agency shop arrangement. Under this arrangement, all bargaining unit employees were represented in the collective bargaining process by the union although some bargaining unit members chose not to join the union. To avoid a “free-rider” situation where non-union employees reaped the benefits of union representation without paying union dues, the union charged non-union employees for “chargeable expenses” – the portion of dues devoted to negotiating, administering and enforcing the collective bargaining agreement. The chargeable expenses portion of dues was set each year based on the union’s prior year audited accounting statements. Non-union employees could avoid non-chargeable expenses – expenses devoted to furthering the union’s political agenda – by annually opting out of contributions for those expenses.