This week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that pits a First Amendment claim by unions against a First Amendment claim by employees. In Washington state, government employees are required to pay an "agency shop fee," whether or not they are union members, ostensibly to cover the costs of collective bargaining. The Supreme Court has held that such money cannot be used to support political causes if an employee objects, since that would amount to compelled speech. In 1992 Washington voters overwhelmingly approved a "paycheck protection" law that goes further, saying unions may not spend nonmembers' money on political activities without their affirmative permission. In March, responding to a challenge by the Washington Education Association, the state Supreme Court concluded that the opt-in rule violates the First Amendment rights of unions. "The initiative that was passed in Washington trampled on the rights of people to have a collective voice in politics," says WEA President Charles Hasse. "It made the rules so burdensome that it made it impossible to be active politically." Does freedom of speech includes the freedom to use other people's resources, without their permission, to get out your message? How would Hasse feel if I held a rally in his yard or commandeered his computer to write Hit & Run posts?
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