Just Say No Twice.

Oral argument from the court.
Jan. 10 2007 6:06 PM

Just Say No Twice

The Supreme Court declines to pay its union dues.

(Continued from Page 1)

Scalia continues to club West about the state's "extraordinary power to exact funds from people," gleefully describing the "government as coercer." Justice John Paul Stevens asks whether a far-broader law, limiting unions from participating in any activity beyond those germane to collective bargaining, would be constitutionally permissible since it doesn't single out political speech. When West tries to answer him, Stevens blurts, "Can you just tell me yes or no and then explain?" West replies, "Yes and no," which cracks up the gallery, but not so much the justices.

Justice Sam Alito gets at the heart of the case when he disputes West's assumption that perhaps nonmembers of the union would nevertheless love to see their fees go to union political activity. "These are teachers who have chosen not to join the WEA, right?" Alito asks. "Then isn't it overwhelmingly likely that they, if you spoke to them and said would you like to give money to the union to spend on elections, they would say no?" He is baffled, adding, "Why would I choose to give up the benefits of union membership and yet want to allow the union to spend my money for its political purposes?"

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West says he "absolutely disagrees" with that presumption, but it's hard to see why.

Attorney General McKenna makes this same point rather nicely in his rebuttal: "The state of Washington's position," he says, "is that nonmembers should not be required to say no twice. They said no when they chose not to join the union. The union's position now is 'we get to use your money for political purposes unless you say no a second time.' "

This probably isn't good news for the unions, which are about to see their power to engage in political advocacy sharply limited by the high court. But as the justices seem mostly to agree today, it's certainly not illogical to assume that if that cute freshman from your Russian-lit class already told you she didn't want to go on a date with you, it's a pretty safe bet she doesn't want to have sex with you, either.

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