The U.S. Supreme Court declined a chance to trim the power of organized labor, leaving intact a Washington state law that gives unions representing in-home care providers access to contact information that isn’t generally available.
The justices on Tuesday turned away a constitutional challenge to the law pressed by three people and an interest group that say they want to communicate with care providers about replacing their union or opting out of paying fees. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have heard the case.
The Supreme Court has curbed the power of unions in several recent cases. Most notably, the court ruled in 2018 that government employees have a constitutional right not to pay so-called agency fees to help cover the cost of collective bargaining.
The latest case involves contact information collected by the state for reimbursement purposes. Under a ballot initiative approved by Washington voters in 2016, the state can’t disclose that information in most cases, but can give it to the unions that represent the providers.
Supporters said the ballot initiative was geared toward protecting seniors from identity theft, while opponents said the measure was designed to prevent caregivers from learning about their right not to pay union dues.
At the Supreme Court, the law’s challengers contended the measure violates the First Amendment by discriminating on the basis of viewpoint. The law “reserves the opportunity to identify and communicate with employees for the one speaker with the least incentive to inform them of their constitutional right to opt out of the union,” they argued.
The challengers included care providers Bradley Boardman, Deborah Thurber and Shannon Benn, along with the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation, which describes itself on its website as “a battle tank that’s battering the entrenched power of left-wing government union bosses who represent a permanent lobby for bigger government, higher taxes and radical social agendas.”
Washington Attorney General Robert Ferguson urged the court to reject the appeal. He argued that the law’s exception for unions makes sense in light of their legal duties to the workers they represent.
The challengers’ position “would upend countless laws that provide information to entities that tend to have certain political views, from health insurers to veterans’ organizations to military contractors,” Ferguson argued. “Public records laws often grant access to information only to certain entities, typically because of some statutory or contractual obligation of those entities.”
The case is Boardman v. Inslee, 20-1334.