Chamber of Commerce v. Brown

January 16, 2008 • Legal Briefs

After intense lobbying by the AFL-CIO, California enacted a statute prohibiting employers receiving either a state grant or over $10,000 from a state program from using those funds to “assist, promote, or deter union organizing.” This prohibition even applies to the payment of salaries, speaking about unions to employees working on state contracts, and meeting with employees on state property to discuss union‐​related issues. The only significant exceptions all relate to employer speech favoring union activity. The law also imposes burdens on employers who wish to use funds not originating from state programs to continue speaking on union‐​related issues, such as the need to maintain segregated accounting and salary‐​payment systems. After several re‐​hearings, the Ninth Circuit upheld the statute on both labor law and constitutional grounds. Cato’s brief argues that 1) this case should be decided on labor law grounds because the National Labor Relations Act clearly prohibits state regulations of this kind; but 2) if the Supreme Court reaches the First Amendment issue, the statute should be struck down because it imposes an unconstitutional condition on the receipt of state funds and burdens private speech in an area unrelated to the programs for which the funds are given.

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About the Author
Ilya Shapiro

Director, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute