The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission sparked a widespread dialogue about the fundamental First Amendment right of free speech and the future of election spending. This Article contributes to that dialogue with a focus on how the Citizens United decision affects labor unions.
After explaining the Court’s rationale in Citizens United, the Author juxtaposes Citizens United with earlier cases concerning the First Amendment rights of labor unions. Specifically, the Article explores inconsistencies in two areas: first, labor protest rights, as to which pre-Citizens United Supreme Court decisions upheld certain speaker-based restrictions on protest tactics; and second, protections for dissenting union-represented employees. Next, the Author evaluates whether post-Citizens United First Amendment cases resolve this established tension. The Article closes by expressing concern about what these inconsistencies may mean in the future, especially in the context of two important cases from this Term’s Supreme Court docket: McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and Harris v. Quinn.