Guest Post: Do Arguments Against Fair Share Fees Make it Harder for the Government to Privatize Services?

Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor blog, April 14, 2015

….So far, those who advocate for overturning Abood haven’t spent much time addressing whether employment should be treated differently from other benefits or opportunities provided by the government. But, if the Court accepts the argument that the government may never condition the granting of a benefit on providing financial support to an entity that engages in expressive activity that an individual finds objectionable, then a decision overturning Abood could have unexpected and wide-ranging implications. For instance, consider the question of access to national parks. If you want to visit Alcatraz Island, you must pay $30.00 to Alcatraz Cruises, a private ferry service. It’s not clear where the money goes, but according to a sustainability report issued by the company in 2012, some of that money went to the purchase of renewable energy credits and other money went toward the production of on-site renewable energy. Surely not everyone who visits Alcatraz supports these initiatives. If people can’t be required to pay fair share fees to a union in order to have access to public employment, then it is not clear how they could be required to pay fees to Alcatraz Cruises in order to visit a national park.

The same argument applies whenever the government requires individuals to pay money to a private vendor in order to take advantage of government services. Consider the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, known as Part D. According to a 2011 Congressional Budget Office report, beneficiaries receive a federal subsidy of about three quarters of the costs of the basic benefit, but in order to access these benefits, they must pay private insurance companies the remaining twenty-five percent of the premium. These insurance companies obviously engage in a great deal of free speech activity on important and potentially controversial issues. If an individual objects to the speech engaged in by the insurance company providing their Part D benefit, does that raise a serious First Amendment issue?….