PLF fights politicians’ rigged scheme that gives unions a veto over First Amendment free speech rights


Thanks to you, Pacific Legal Foundation is able to fight for core constitutional rights — including First Amendment free speech protections — in courtrooms from coast to coast.

Right now, California is ground zero for one of the most important battles that PLF is waging on behalf of First Amendment freedom — the cherished liberty of all Americans to speak their minds and engage in free and open debate without fear of censorship or punishment by government officials pushing self-serving agendas or carrying water for powerful special interests.

The target of our fight: a ploy by the California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown that tramples on the First Amendment to serve the demands of union leaders and promote their propaganda.

Catering to donors from the labor movement, state lawmakers last year passed SB 954, which stifles voices in the construction industry if they don’t parrot union policy positions, and robs resources from groups that support the rights of nonunion workers and employers.

Construction-industry unions — and their politician friends — try to
silence groups that speak up for nonunion workers

One of these victim groups is the organization we are representing, free of charge, in our federal court battle:  Associated Builders and Contractors-California Cooperation Committee.  ABC-CCC’s mission is to promote “free, open, and vigorous competition in the building and construction industry.”  It does so by advocating for the rights of employers and employees who choose not to unionize.

“California politicians have declared open season on nonunion workers and contractors,” said John Loudon, Executive Director of ABC-CCC, based in San Diego.  Judging by a variety of legislative schemes imposed in recent years, “the end game of the politicians who run California is clearly to eliminate every nonunion job.  The organization I head has been a powerful voice in exposing union corruption, and our effectiveness put a bull’s-eye on our back.  With SB 954, the politicians conspired with their union allies to shut us down.  I am so grateful to PLF for standing with us to fight back.”

SB 954 imposes this censorship by skewing the “prevailing wage” system, to give unions a veto over how nonunion employers are permitted to speak up in the public arena.

Some background:  The prevailing wage, a pay level that the state dictates for construction contractors doing government work, is based on what other projects in the region pay.  Because it takes into account higher-priced unionized labor, it jacks up expenses beyond market levels. However, in lieu of paying the full prevailing wage, contractors have the option of donating to advocacy organizations with a mission to advance the industry.  As originally intended, donations were allowed for any organization supporting the interests of all industry participants, employees and employers alike.

PLF’s client, ABC-CCC, is one such organization.  Formed in 2004, it promotes the cause of “open shop” workplaces, and it is one of the few open shop counterparts to the hundreds of pro-union advocacy groups in the state.

Our client was ‘too successful’ in spotlighting union excesses,
so politicians put a bull’s-eye on its back

But in the eyes of Sacramento, ABC-CCC has been too successful — and must be run out of business!  ABC-CCC sent tremors through the halls of power with academic research documenting how unionized labor for government projects increases the burden on taxpayers with little or no added benefit.

The politicians’ response wasn’t to heed the message, but instead to destroy the messenger.  SB 954 was passed to shut down voices like John Loudon and ABC-CCC, by shutting off their donations from nonunion contractors.  From now on, a nonunion employer can’t donate to an advocacy group, and receive a prevailing wage credit for the gift, unless the donation is OK’d by organized labor through a collective bargaining agreement.  In other words, donations must be approved by the same labor bosses who want groups like ABC-CCC gone!

This union litmus test is having the intended effect:  ABC-CCC’s funding has plummeted, leading to layoffs and cancellation of crucial research.  Meanwhile, hundreds of union-connected advocacy groups continue to receive millions — with no legal requirement to reveal how the money is spent.

Thank you for empowering PLF to defend everyone’s free speech rights!

PLF is leading the fight against SB 954.  As PLF attorney Anastasia Boden says, this unjust law’s discrimination against nonunion advocacy “amounts to a frontal assault on the First Amendment.”

Our case is currently at the Ninth Circuit, and we are prepared to go higher if necessary.  We are aiming for a victory to fortify everyone’s rights, and reaffirm a bedrock principle:  Debate and discussion in America must be free and open, and open to all comers — not constricted or distorted by cynical politicians using the coercive muscle of government to mute messages they don’t like.