Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Supreme Court Vindicates Unions' Free Speech Rights

The Supreme Court recently upheld union free speech.  The Court struck down a Montana law restricting the ability of unions and other corporations to expend funds for political purposes. The Montana law stated a corporation may not “make an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” A small group of organizations including Montana Shooting Sports Association filed a lawsuit arguing that the law interfered with their First Amendment right of free speech.

In American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, the Court agreed, holding Montana's law directly conflicts with the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s decision relied heavily on the prior decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled the First Amendment prohibited the government from overly restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. The ruling effectively frees unions to spend money on elections and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates (although not to contribute unlimited amounts directly to candidates or political parties). The Court’s decisions validate the reason why people formed unions in the first place: to give workers the freedom to come together to voice their concerns and fight for their members.