The US Supreme Court denies appeal against Washington state law that gives unions access to employee data

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The US Supreme Court rejected an opportunity to curtail the power of organized labor, leaving intact a Washington state law that grants unions representing home care workers access to contact information that is not widely available.

The judges on Tuesday dismissed a constitutional challenge to the law by three people and an interest group who said they wanted to communicate with caregivers about changing their union or waiving fees. Judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they heard the case.

The Supreme Court has recently restricted the power of trade unions in a number of cases. Most notably, in 2018 the court ruled that civil servants have a constitutional right not to pay so-called agency fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

The most recent case is contact details collected by the state for reimbursement purposes. According to an electoral initiative approved by Washington voters in 2016, the state is not allowed to share this information in most cases, but can share it with the unions representing the providers.

Proponents said the election initiative was designed to protect seniors from identity theft, while opponents said the measure was intended to prevent caregivers from knowing about their right not to pay union dues.

Before the Supreme Court, the contestants of the law claimed that the measure violated the First Amendment because it discriminated on the basis of its position. The law “retains the ability to identify and communicate with workers for the one spokesperson with the slightest incentive to inform them of their constitutional right to quit the union,” they argued.

The challengers included nurses Bradley Boardman, Deborah Thurber and Shannon Benn, and the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation, which describes itself on its website as “a battle tank that lobbies the entrenched power of left government union leaders who hold an enduring position.” for bigger government, higher taxes and radical social agendas. “

Washington Attorney General Robert Ferguson asked the court to deny the appeal. He argued that the legal exemption for trade unions made sense given their legal obligations to the workers they represent.

The challenger’s position “would turn upside down a myriad of laws that make information available to companies with political tendencies, from health insurance companies to veterans’ organizations to military companies,” argued Ferguson. “Public records laws often only allow certain legal entities access to information, typically based on a legal or contractual obligation of that legal entity.”

The case is Boardman v Inslee, 20-1334.

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