The Grey Lady is seeing red in Minnesota.
In July, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to undermine the state's new union of 27,000 home care workers. The attorneys argued here -- as they have elsewhere -- that forcing some workers to join a union violates constitutional guarantees of free expression and association.
"This a specious and ideologically driven argument," the New York Times editorial board declared Wednesday, "akin to saying that a United States senator should not be deemed to represent all of the people in a state because some residents voted for an opponent."
Not sure why the paper waited until October to speak its mind, but it's clear that a previous precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court had something to do with it. In a 5-4 decision, the highest justices in the land ruled that home care workers who opt out of unionization do not have to pay their portion of collective bargaining costs. But they still get pay raises and benefits like everyone else.
We reached out to the foundation for comment Thursday, but never heard back. Either way, their interest in this matter, and all union matters, is no mystery. Its connection to the free-market fanatical Koch brothers has been well articulated. Freedom Partners alone gave the foundation $1 million in 2012.
The foundation's influence in the political arena goes back decades. In the 1990s, the Federal Election Commission accused the foundation of meddling a little too closely in the 1984 presidential campaign of Walter Mondale. A lawsuit suggests that the foundation spent $100,000 on private detectives who were hired to infiltrate the AFL-CIO and the Mondale presidential committee to show possible misuses of general treasury union funds.
This year, the Center for Responsive Politics uncovered evidence that in 2010 the foundation ran an off-the-books mass mailing operation, contradicting statements made to the IRS.
Of course, the other battleground has been the courts. The Supreme Court of John Roberts has earned a reputation, right or wrong, for being unjustly sympathetic to corporate interests. But if the union is worried about the latest lawsuit, it's not showing it.
"We're going to continue bargaining with the state to provide a better life for ourselves and our families and our clients," says Sumer Spika, a home care worker and union activist. "We're not going to let anyone stop us."