On Tuesday, seven elected officials from various local government bodies challenged a recently enacted California state law that prohibits a public employer from “deter[ing] or discourag[ing] public employees from becoming or remaining members” of a union. The challenged statute (which was part of Senate Bill 866) was a rearguard action that the public employee unions (and their many friends and admirers in the California legislature) caused to be passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which barred mandatory union dues for public employees. (Our analysis of that decision is here.)
The public officials in this latest case allege that the law “one-sidedly skews public discussion in favor of public employee unions.” They claim that they have suffered and will continue to suffer the law’s “chilling restrictions on core political speech” and that the law violates their First Amendment rights because it is vague, overbroad, and unlawfully regulates their free speech.
As California has the greatest number of unionized workers in the nation, the Plaintiffs here face an uphill battle. Even if they prevail in this case, the California legislature and the unions that generously bankroll it will likely have a calculated response as bill-passing season gets underway. In the last election cycle, unions contributed close to $180 million to support the very same politicians who are passing laws like Senate Bill 866.
Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction is set for hearing on May 1, 2020. We will update you on any developments.