Free Speech Rights for Corporations and Unions

In Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that political spending is a form of free speech that is protected under the First Amendment. This decision allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activities, as long as it was done independently of a party or candidate.

In Janus versus the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,  the Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be forced to pay their proportionate share of the costs of collective bargaining. The court concluded that requiring nonmembers of a union to help pay for collective bargaining violated their free speech rights because they were compelled to subsidize political speech which they might have found objectionable. All unions, including teachers’ unions which represent many Jewish teachers, will lose funding and members who will drop out to receive the benefits of union membership without paying dues.

A corporation pays dividends to its shareholders and wages to its employees. The money that a corporation spends on political activities is money that would otherwise be paid out to its shareholders in the form of higher dividends and to its employees in the form of higher wages. In light of the Janus decision, a corporation which spends money on political activities violates the free speech rights of its shareholders and employees by forcing them to surrender income to subsidize political speech which they might find objectionable. Hence, the Janus decision nullifies the Citizens United decision.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, the Forward, and Jewish Voice.
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