Editorial: RTW Challenge Falls Short

A union challenge to the state’s right-to-work law was definitely expected. The challenge that has been offered, however, lacks in credibility, according to this excerpted editorial that first appeared in the Lafayette Journal & Courier and has been echoed in other circles.

In a federal lawsuit filed in federal court, attorneys for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 argue that the right-to-work law infringes on the unions’ freedom of speech.

How? The right-to-work law, signed into law this year, allows workers to skip paying union dues even if the union bargains for wages and benefits on their behalf. The lawsuit’s contention is that right-to-work limits a union’s ability to build up coffers needed to negotiate beyond the plant floor — namely in Statehouses and other political lobbying settings.

The brief filed last month, according to an Associated Press account, cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which made corporate campaign spending free from many reporting restrictions. Nice try.

The unions, which are scheduled to get a hearing in federal court later this month, are already being called on the strategy by legal experts. And rightly so. The Citizens United decision, whether rightly or wrongly sorted out by the U.S. Supreme Court, was about spending money to boost political speech without many of the past reporting restrictions. It was not about how corporations or organizations raised that money.

Unions faced those potential fundraising limitations before right to work, with union members able to opt out of dues that were beyond those needed for negotiations.

If unions are serious about bringing down Indiana’s right-to-work law, we’re guessing they’ll have to try another approach.

Free Speech for All

Look at most polls and you’ll see voters are in a surly mood and wanting to boot incumbents out of office. So no one should have been surprised that congressional leadership wants to move fast to pass new restrictions on speech by those who might disagree with them.

It’s called the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections, or “DISCLOSE Act.”  A long and cute title, but the bill is really designed to put duct tape over the mouths of businesses and trade associations. Labor unions and trial lawyers get a pass in the bill, an important preferential treatment with real election impacts.

For-profit corporations doing federal contract business, taking TARP money, or with as little as 20% overseas ownership would be flatly shut-out of making campaign communications. CEOs of any other corporations who tried to speak up would have to go on camera in any advertisement saying they approved the ad and could face criminal complaints. Independent expenditure ads by businesses and associations would be blocked from being on the air from April through November in Indiana.

For decades, federal campaign finance rules and “reform” packages like McCain-Feingold were crafted with some balance for corporations and labor unions. The DISCLOSE Act abandons this important balance and bipartisanship. There was no attempt at a bipartisan approach here, particularly with the current chair of the House Democrat Campaign Committee (Rep. Van Hollen) and immediate past chair of the Senate campaign committee (Sen. Chuck Schumer) actually authoring the bill.

Businesses and trade associations have First Amendment free speech rights, as reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Citizens United ruling last year. That pesky First Amendment getting in the way of politicians again.

You can take action in fighting this legislation via the Indiana Prosperity Project.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Business Freedom

In a major victory for Hoosier and American business, the United States Supreme Court handed down a much anticipated ruling today in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This ruling removes the ban placed on corporate dollars spent on independent expenditures and will give the job creators and innovators of this country the freedom to talk about issues, candidates and elections.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling frees American business from the yoke of second class citizenship.  It returns the right of American business to talk about workplace issues and hold candidates accountable,” said Gregory Casey, President and CEO of the Business and Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), the nation’s oldest business political action committee. The Court’s action is “certain to increase the discussion on economic issues in the 2010 elections, which is a very good outcome.” 

The Court’s 5-4 ruling also involved two much older cases, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.  In Citizens United v. FEC, a small non-profit organization, Citizens United wanted to release a documentary that was critical of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential election on cable TV that would have been available through video-on-demand. Several lower court decisions ruled against the organization from airing the documentary.

Contributions made by corporations will be disclosed and essentially treated the same as an individual contribution currently is by the FEC. Transparency and freedom of speech are both important and both won in this ruling.

By the way, the loud moan you are hearing is coming from labor union leaders who fear business leaders talking directly with voters about an agenda centered on job creation, economic development and education reform.

Please feel free to add to the conversation and post your comments or questions.