Image 01 Image 03

Supreme Court limits compelled public sector union dues

Supreme Court limits compelled public sector union dues

The Supreme Court just handed down its decision in Harris v. Quinn, where the issues were (via ScotusBlog):

(1) Whether a state may, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, compel personal care providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the state for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs; and (2) whether the lower court erred in holding that the claims of providers in the Home Based Support Services Program are not ripe for judicial review.

The ruling was 5-4, with the majority authored by Justice Alito, as tweeted by ScotusBlog:

TPM elaborated on the fear from the left, Unions Fear This SCOTUS Case Could Bring Their ‘Final Destruction’

From the Majority Opinion:

This case presents the question whether the First Amendment permits a State to compel personal care providers to subsidize speech on matters of public concern by a union that they do not wish to join or support. We hold that it does not, and we therefore reverse the judg­ment of the Court of Appeals.

TPM elaborated prior to the decision on the fears from the left, which were not fully realized, Unions Fear This SCOTUS Case Could Bring Their ‘Final Destruction’

The case, Harris v. Quinn, is about the constitutionality of “agency fees” charged by public sector unions to all workers in a unionized setting, even non-union members. These fees are essential to their operation….

Unions fear the implications extend far beyond the home health worker profession in Illinois. Agency fees in principle are important to public employee unions because they’re required by law to bargain for all workers in a unionized setting. If agency fees for non-members are ruled to be a violation of free speech, unions fear they would lose funding, become less effective at bargaining for benefits and, in turn, lose members.

A death spiral.

One labor official said such a result would bring about “the possible final destruction of the American labor movement.” The official added, “It would cause the death not only of public sector unions and what’s left of private sector unions, but also the Democratic Party,” suggesting that the demise of unions would make Democrats more reliant on Wall Street money.

Joel Rogers, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, wrote in The Nation magazine that the challengers’ case in Harris goes for the “kill shot” against public employee unions.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Apparently this was a narrow ruling and I think it was appropriate in a situation of egregious overreach by public sector unions.

Insufficiently Sensitive | June 30, 2014 at 10:23 am

If agency fees for non-members are ruled to be a violation of free speech, unions fear they would lose funding, become less effective at bargaining for benefits and, in turn, lose members.

It can’t happen too soon.

Another Voice | June 30, 2014 at 10:37 am

How will this effect public schools, which are notorious for having one of heaviest PAC’s in NYS (among others), and subscribe by contractual bargaining units that all faculty and support service employees, both part and full time, to mandatory agency fees?

This decision, as welcome as it is, is a BB gunshot against a T Rex. What we need is a federal constitutional amendment banning ALL public sector unions.

Applying first principles…

A private-sector union is an example of free association. Individuals can combine and delegate their rights to bargain with an employer in a collective front. All good.

Individuals can choose to associate with a union or not (in most cases). Provided all things are equal, this is a market decision, essentially. But over time in the U.S., all things have not been remotely equal, with unions expressly excluded from a lot of law and regulation bearing on every form of association.

Public-sector unions are an entirely different breed of cat, and are often compulsory…or essentially so in terms of membership or participation (i.e., money).

Were PRIVATE-sector unions to be removed from their special status among all organizations, I would have no kick against them. They would look and act like other market players. And they might retain a place in American life.

But the public-sector union should never have existed, and should now be mercifully put to sleep.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Ragspierre. | June 30, 2014 at 10:56 am


    RE: “free association” like when a Mob Boss informs you “I’ve got an offer you cannot refuse!”


    Steven H in reply to Ragspierre. | June 30, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    If only private sector union hadn’t won crony protections then your notion of free-association would apply. But as an employee serving two masters has its inherent problems one or the other will make demands on you that run counter to your commitment to the other.

    The other problem with a union is that you are not free to negotiate for your true worth. The union is like an investment advisor charging you fees when you could simply invest in an ETF and cut him out.

      Ragspierre in reply to Steven H. | June 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Yah. Like I said.

      Your second point is…pointless. My interests and those of my theoretical employer are not the same. Sometimes they are in opposition. I only serve one master when my employer’s interests conflict with mine…me. Nothing about a collective pooling of employee interests changes that.

      Your point about not being able to individually bargain for my wages is right. What you don’t get is that a lot of people feel that is a price they can pay to bargain collectively with an employer. They expect a better deal than they could individually drive. Which is, of course, one of the grips we have with unions. They TEND to protect their LEAST productive members.

      Chem_Geek in reply to Steven H. | June 30, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      “you are not free to negotiate for your true worth.”

      You think that the Management pays you your true worth? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        Ragspierre in reply to Chem_Geek. | June 30, 2014 at 4:24 pm

        I think that if management is paying you anything, it is being cheated.


        4fun in reply to Chem_Geek. | June 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm

        When you accepted employment you agreed that was what you were worth at that time or you would have asked for more or found some other higher paying job. Is that so hard to understand?

    not here in maine, really hoping we go right to work soon.
    but you stated the issue really well,I like your description.

Imagine the ramped-up pressure to resign that will be applied to Bader-Ginsburg. Obama will do nearly everything to stack the SC with liberals before the mid-term elections, and most certainly wants to leave a liberal court as his legacy (and as insurance against adverse decisions that could impact him personally).

    Humphrey's Executor in reply to Michael Haz. | June 30, 2014 at 11:04 am

    IF the GOP gets control of the Senate, and IF RBG then resigns, Obama will have to find a closet liberal to get past the Senate. But how hard is that? Remember Blackmun, Stevens, and Souter? All Republicans who turned hard left once they got to the SC.

      Correction – they were Rockefeller Republicans so they didn’t really ‘turn’ hard left. They were already three-quarters of the way there.

      The solution? Select conservatives.

      Bruno Lesky in reply to Humphrey's Executor. | June 30, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      Add Roberts to a list of mal-appointments for the most craven, destructive, un-Constitutionally imaginative decision in recent memory: Obamacare lives.

Not A Member of Any Organized Political | June 30, 2014 at 10:54 am

It’s about Darn Time!!!!!

NC Mountain Girl | June 30, 2014 at 11:05 am

The unions and the politicians who rely on union money overreached when they declared these workers to be state employees. The state may be the paymaster but the supervision and control that defines an employee relationship is provided by the people they care for and not by the state. This is a far different fact pattern than the one in the case that established “fair share” fees.

They way to break the unions is to put some teeth in the requirements the unions 1) fully disclose to members how much of their dues goes to providing workplace services versus how much goes to lobbying on issues unrelated to their core function and 2) allow members to easily opt out of the later without fear of harassment.

9thDistrictNeighbor | June 30, 2014 at 11:08 am

This was a case brought by a mom in Illinois who receives state assistance for the care of her severely disabled son and cares for him herself. Governor Pat Quinn signed an executive order mandating that, whether or not a home health care worker—or in this case Mom, wanted to join the SEIU, 2 percent of the state assistance funds would be given to the union. Quinn even gave the SEIU the names and home addresses of the families who received assistance. This was government overreach pure and simple and thank goodness for Samuel Alito.

    The same situation happened in Michigan to a couple who were caring for their down syndrome child at home. The SEIU was taking money out of the small amount they received every month for their child via Medicaid-it was something like $200 a month for which the union was taking $25 out for dues before the parents ever received the check. Money that the parents used for health care needs such as protective underwear, etc. for their child. The parents had never seen anyone from the union at their home, nor were they receiving anything from the union in the way of assistance. The state law and union contracts permitted the union to demand that these “caretakers” be union members and pay dues.

      NC Mountain Girl in reply to Uh Huh. | June 30, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      These programs are quasi welfare in effect. Without the state home health care check a middle class parent(s) might have to consider placing their relative in a nursing home in order to seek employment outside the home. That would cost the state a lot more money in the long run.

      Had the State of Illinois won this case can bet that SEIU’s next move would have been to lobby for a law designating welfare mothers as state employees.

You cannot compel membership (payment) and keep the union honest.

Spiny Norman | June 30, 2014 at 11:45 am

“It would cause the death not only of public sector unions and what’s left of private sector unions, but also the Democratic Party,”

If only.

“Joel Rogers, a law professor at the “It would cause the death not only of public sector unions and what’s left of private sector unions, but also the Democratic Party,” suggesting that the demise of unions would make Democrats more reliant on Wall Street money.

I’ve heard that POTUS’s nickname is President Goldman Sachs. I think the Dems discovered an large river of Wall Street money decades ago.
Mr. Rodgers is just plain wrong with his implication.

What I love about this case is that it starts out as a reach by the dems to basically pad their campaigns with money from the public treasury under the guise of “helping the workers” and ends with Unions losing a stranglehold on their own members causing the dems to lose vast sums of contributions in the near future.

This sounds more like a trade guild than a union.

legalizehazing | June 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Thank God!

Maybe I’m naive but I still fail to understand one of the basic premises of unionization. I don’t get how 50%+1 person can vote to take away my individual right to contract with my employer.

I heard a leftist radio guy somberly lamenting this decision as an attack on “workers’ right to unionize.” So, leftists believe the “right to unionize” includes the right to compel others to unionize against their will.

Likewise, they believe that a woman’s “reproductive rights” include the right to coerce other people to pay for their contraception.

The same radio guy expects that the Hobby Lobby decision will stir up “women” to vote for Democrats this fall. I’d like to believe that most women aren’t that stupid, but a lot of them fell for the insane “war on women” mantra in 2012.

LukasMiskowski | July 1, 2014 at 2:21 pm

lol Thank youuu… heres some more good info in case anyones curious.–2014-06-3010:33:17

How would this impact unions like the United Steelworkers? I work in the oil industry and I got out of the union because I was sick and tired of their hypocrisy for supporting Obama and the Democrats as our livelihoods were attacked. Now for the next contract negotiation the local union wants to propose making non-union employees pay an “association” fee, dues essentially. Does this ruling make that not possible now or would that require a different ruling?