Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association

PETITIONER: Perry Education Association
RESPONDENT: Perry Local Educators' Association
LOCATION: Perry Township Metropolitan School District

DOCKET NO.: 81-896
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 460 US 37 (1983)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1982
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1983

Robert H. Chanin - on behalf of the Appellant
Richard L. Zweig - on behalf of the Appellee

Facts of the case

The Perry Education Association (PEA) won an election against the Perry Local Educators' Association (PLEA) to serve as the sole union representing teachers in Perry Township, Indiana. As part of the collective-bargaining agreement reached between PEA and the Board of Education of Perry Township, PEA obtained exclusive rights to use the internal school mail system and PLEA was denied access. PLEA contended that denying their members use of the mail system violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. A Federal District Court ruled against PLEA but the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed.


Does a local school board violate the First Amendment by disallowing a nonofficial teachers union from using its internal school mail system?

Media for Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1982 in Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Perry Education Association against Perry Local Association.

Mr. Chanin, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready now.

Robert H. Chanin:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case arises in a public school district in Indiana.

Indiana has enacted a statute governing the labor relations of its public school teachers.

Like the National Labor Relations Act and the public sector labor relations statutes in other states, it adopts the principle of exclusive recognition.

Under that principle, the union selected by the majority of teachers in an appropriate bargaining unit is authorized and indeed obligated to represent all teachers in that unit, whether they are members of the union or not, in dealing with the school district.

In 1977 an election was held in the Perry Township school district to select an exclusive representative for the teachers.

The competing organizations in that election were the Appellant, PEA, and the Appellee, PLEA.

During the election campaign itself, both organizations were treated equally and they were accorded the same opportunity to sell their programs, their activities, and their ideas to the voting teachers.

The teachers voted and chose PEA as the exclusive representative.

PEA subsequently entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the school district.

Among other things, the agreement gave PEA access to the individual teacher mailboxes, which are name slots which appear in each school building, and to the inter-school mail system, which is a courier service by means of which the district delivers material from school building to school building.

The collective bargaining agreement expressly stated that these rights are given to PEA... and this is the quote from the agreement...

"acting as the representative of the teachers. "

And that article went on to deny to other employee organizations, including PLEA, access to those school mail facilities.

The PLEA and two of its members challenged this access restriction as violative of the first Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.

The Court of Appeals held that it is unconstitutional for a school district to distinguish between the exclusive collective bargaining representative and rival unions in granting access to internal communication facilities.

This holding, which would invalidate the prevailing practice in public sector labor law throughout this country, is inconsistent in several respects, we believe, with the principles announced by this Court.

Its overriding defect, however, is its failure to recognize the distinction that this Court has drawn between public and non-public forums in determining the constitutionality of access restrictions.

It is appropriate to begin analysis by setting forth the two standards that this Court has adopted.

If the property in question constitutes a public forum, the government's right to restrict access is subject to rather stringent limitations.

Generally speaking, it only may impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions which are content-neutral and narrowly drawn to meet a compelling governmental interest.

A different standard applies if the property is not a public forum.

Although we are not suggesting in any sense that government is free to act without restraint, the test is a less stringent one.

The access restriction is constitutional if it is reasonable on the one hand, and is not designed to prohibit access because the government disapproves of a speaker's view or seeks to favor one point of view over another.

It is within this framework that we believe the issue before the Court can be best analyzed, and we believe that issue can be divided into two subsidiary questions.

The first is, which of the two standards is appropriately applied to the school mail facilities?

Once that is determined, the second question is whether the challenged access policy meets the appropriate standard.