Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission, was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions. Labor unions had initially assailed the ruling, known as Citizen’s United, for allowing corporations and wealthy donors to vastly expand their spending on campaigns. That has indeed happened, with the proliferation of a new generation of political action committees, known as Super PACs, that can accept unlimited donations.
But the ruling also changed the rules for unions, effectively ending a prohibition on outreach to nonunion households. Now, unions can use their formidable numbers to reach out to sympathetic nonunion voters by knocking on doors, calling them at home and trying to get them to polling places. They can also create their own Super PACs to underwrite bigger voter identification and get-out-the-vote operations than ever before. Before the Citizen’s United ruling, unions were banned from using dues money to reach out to nonmembers in political campaigns, but now unions plan to campaign among the 89 percent of Americans who do not belong to unions.
However, what happens if you are a union member and do not agree with the positions or politicians your union is supporting? In theory, your union could spend a sizeable portion of your dues advances causes that you believe are to your detriment. Luckily, Citizen’s United appeared to leave intact precedent that holds that union members who object to having their union dues spent on politics are entitled to a refund for the portion of their dues used for politics.
If you are a union member, and your union is spending money on political activities that you disagree with, and it will not refund to you the portion of your dues being spent on political activities, please contact us to discuss your legal rights.