Stevens

Brown

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against California Attorney General Jerry Brown Thursday in his effort to protect a law that prohibits businesses from using taxpayer-funded grants to influence their employees' thoughts on unionization.

Seven of the nine Justices said the National Labor Relations Act pre-empted California's 2000 law, which was supported by 18 other states. It says that employers who receive state funds and grants may not use them to support or deter union organizing in any way.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion.

"The mere fact that Congress has imposed targeted federal restrictions on union-related advocacy in certain limited contexts does not invite the states to override federal labor policy in other settings," Stevens wrote.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

"As far as I can tell, states that do wish to pay for employer speech are generally free to do so," Breyer wrote.

"They might make clear, for example, through grant-related rules and regulations that a grant recipient can use the funds to pay salaries and overheard, which salaries and overheard might include expenditures related to management's role in labor organizing contests.

"If so, why should states that do not wish to pay be deprived of a similar freedom? Why should they be conscripted into paying? I can find nothing in the majority's arguments that convincingly answers these questions."

The US. Chamber of Commerce challenged the law in 2002, and Brown continued to defend it. The Chamber is the owner of Legal Newsline.

"It's simply unethical for a state to use taxpayers' funds to tie the hands of employers in union organizing drives," said Steven Law, chief legal officer and general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Not only is it unethical, but today the Supreme Court declared that it's unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act for a state to muzzle employers' speech rights."

"It's simply unethical for a state to use taxpayers' funds to tie the hands of employers in union organizing drives," said Steven Law, chief legal officer and general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Not only is it unethical, but today the Supreme Court declared that it's unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act for a state to muzzle employers' speech rights."

The Chamber says the decision should impact proposed legislation in West Virginia. Bills in the Mountain State are similar to the California law, said the executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center.

"The impact of the Court's decision will be sweeping," Robin Conrad said. "At least 20 states either have similar laws or have proposed to enact laws that also restrict federally protected employer speech about unionization."

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