Harris v. Quinn Page 2

Harris v. Quinn general information

Media for Harris v. Quinn

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 21, 2014 in Harris v. Quinn

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 30, 2014 in Harris v. Quinn

As I mentioned, the new law deemed that personal assistants to be state employees solely for the purposes of coverage under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.

And that move had important consequences that gave rise to this case.

It meant that the personal assistants could unionize and it also meant that those personal assistants who do not want to join the union or support its work may be forced to pay what is known as an agency fee.

This means that these objecting non-members must pay the union dues -- must pay the union dues minus the portion of those dues that the union would use for political or ideological purposes.

After the enactment of the new law, the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union was recognized as the personal assistants union.

The union and the State entered into a collective bargaining agreement requiring non-members to pay an agency fee.

And the number of personal assistants who do not want to subsidize the union then brought the suit claiming that the agency fee violates their First Amendment rights.

Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected that challenge based on the case that this Court decided in 1977 called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

In Abood, this Court held that the First Amendment permitted the Detroit Board of Education to demand that all public school teachers pay an agency fee to a union regardless of whether they were members or wish to support the union's agenda.

Abood reasoned that this was permissible for two reasons.

First, to preserve what is called labor peace, which chiefly means preventing rivalries between competing unions and conflicting demands by such unions.

Second, to prevent free riding that is workers benefiting from a union's efforts without paying a share to the union's expenses.

Two terms ago, in the case called Knox v. SEIU, we noted that Abood is something of anomaly.

Why is that so?

To understand, it's necessary to go back to some basic principles.

The First Amendment obviously prevents the government from suppressing speech on important public issues.

Let's say someone wants to give a speech in a public park and wants to say that the local school board is spending too much money.

The local authorities cannot prohibit that speech for the purpose of preventing the expression of a view with which they disagree.

And by the same token, the local authorities could not require all parents in the town to pay dues to a private group that distributes leaflets or runs newspaper ads supporting increase spending for schools.

Even though some might say that all parents benefit from the efforts of this group and therefore might be called free riders, we have never held that the First Amendment permits anything like this except in Abood.

So our opinion in this case examines the curious way in which the anomalies holding in Abood entered our First Amendment jurisprudence.

We also explained that Abood's reasoning is questionable for a number of reasons.

Among other things we note the following.

Abood failed to appreciate the difference between the core union speech involuntarily subsidized by dissenting public-sector employees and the core union speech involuntarily funded by their counterparts in the private-sector who were not protected by the First Amendment, because private sector employers are not state actors.

Abood failed to appreciate the conceptual difficulty of distinguishing in public-sector cases between union expenditures that are made for collective bargaining purposes and those that are made for political ends.

Abood does not seem to have anticipated the magnitude of the practical problems that would result from attempting to classify public-sector union expenditures as falling into one or the other of these two categories.

Abood likewise did not foresee the practical problems that would face objecting non-members who believe that a union is using their money for political or ideological purposes.

Finally, the Abood Court erroneously assumed that an agency fee provision is inextricably linked to a union status as the exclusive representative of all the employees in the relevant unit.

Despite all these, the Court of Appeals dramatically expanded Abood's reach.

Abood involved full-fledged public employees, but the personal assistants in the Rehabilitation Program are not anything like full-fledged public employees.