Harris v. Quinn: The “Other” Supreme Court Decision Today

Supreme Court225px-010_alitoToday’s ruling in Hobby Lobby is the type of decision that tends to suck the oxygen out of the room. For that reason, the important decision in Harris v. Quinn could be overlooked. At issue in the case is the viability of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education— the 1977 opinion held that the government could constitutionally condition a person’s employment in the public sector on the paying fees to a union. As I mentioned on CNN last night, this is a major decision that is being pushed from the coverage but deserves more attention. As anticipated, Justice Alito wrote the decision and ruled against the union.

The fear going into this week was an ominous head count by the union. There is an effort on the Court historically to spread out the opinions. Every Justice had written majority opinions from the January calendar. All except the justice that the unions least wanted available: Justice Alito. Alito had written the decision two years ago in Knox v. SEIU, that the government violates the first amendment in allowing public-sector unions to force nonmembers to pay a special fee for the purpose of financing the union’s political activities. Most worrisome was the statement in Knox that, while the Court would not “revisit” the first amendment issues more generally raised in this area, it did say that the objection that nonmembers were being allowed to “free ride” on due paying members is “generally insufficient to overcome First Amendment objections.”

This could be a major blow for unions. The Court could use this decision to drive a serious wedge into the labor force and seriously undermine the financial position of unions. The unions argue that they are required to negotiate the best deal for non-union members like these home-care workers. Since they benefit from such union representation, they should have to pay their fair share according to the union. The State of Illinois also supports this arrangement because it allows for a more efficient single-negotiating party in these talks. However, these workers advance an array of claims from petition claims to free speech claims to associational claims in being effectively forced to support the union.

While the ruling is limited to home-care workers, it has broader implications for unions. This is one of the fastest growing segments of the workforce and the new model for future labor forces. The unions just lost that potential for growth as well as the dues that are being lost to these new forms of employment.

43 thoughts on “Harris v. Quinn: The “Other” Supreme Court Decision Today”

  1. One win for the little guy, who has been at the beckon call of unions for close to 100 years. Don’t get me wrong, unions have their place–fair wages, fair benefits, fair work time. Once, the workers gave them cart blanch, they went to far overboard. Unions should stick to their original intent to help the worker and stop mixing politics with work.

    Give me the freedom to choose to vote for the candidate I want, give me the liberty to support the issues I believe in. Give me the choice to chose the party I want to support–not the union bosses.

    Unions have become to big, extensively controlling, and way out of hand. It’s time to stop taking the union dues and then using it in the manner that the big union bosses want to use it.

    Yeah, Carlin talked about the big business corporations who control us–so true, but so do the unions.

  2. “Members were forced to pay for political campaigns that they often disagreed w/, and sometimes were against their own self interest.”

    I thought union members already had the right to exclude their dues from being used for political activities. I think the part of union dues used for collective bargaining is called the agency fee and that is the part that has to be paid – until this ruling.

  3. I believe that a dog should be allowed to join any dogpack which will take him and which he seeks membership. A solo dog has a rougher time of life. I have done both ways. A dog pays his or her dues in many ways. We dont require any dog to belong or to pay dues but if a dog does not do his or her share then the dog is due to get kicked out of the dog pack. As for the Supreme Court: I hear that a dog pack is headed over to Alito’s house tonight to leave some dues in his yard.

  4. Kraaken:

    Thanks for clarifying. I thought the mention of forcing people to pay union dues was forcing them to be members. I’ve heard of such cases where unions force payment from workers they don’t even represent.

    I’m still happy.

    Nick – “You are one of the “dyed in the wool” FREE THINKERS, here.” you’re just saying that because a Kraaken is a Titan. 🙂 It’s nice to read someone’s comments who doesn’t filter everything through how it benefits or harms his political party.

    bettykath – feudalims? I have to disagree with you there. How is a union being prevented from forcing non-union-members from paying them tribute feudalism? I would have thought forcing tribute from non-members would be feudalism.

  5. Michaelb, And, for the reason you stated, Federal Employees have the Hatch Act. When my wife worked for the US Courts we could not have a bumper sticker or yard sign. That was just fine w/ me, anyway.

  6. Kraaken, You are one of the “dyed in the wool” FREE THINKERS, here.

  7. Darren, I agree. It is an attack on the lock the Dem party has had w/ union money. It is a major blow to union fat cat leaders. Members were forced to pay for political campaigns that they often disagreed w/, and sometimes were against their own self interest. On the other side, business owners have been known to force employees to “contribute” to campaigns that they did not want to or agree w/. However, that is not systemic like the union/Dem unholy alliance.

  8. I agree with this ruling. Mandating individuals pay fees for others’ to voice an organization’s free speech is in my view unconstitutional. This is not an attack against unions generally.

  9. This will force unions to represent workers that work or provide other compelling reasons to fork over a portion of your salary to them. For too long unions have colluded with corporations to stay in power and collect their fees.

  10. Guess unions will have to cease representing these folk in disciplinary matters or for raises before the legislatures.

  11. SEIU which also controls ACORN and the new ACORN identities, is the fastest growing union. Other unions are losing membership.

  12. Karen S ‘Yeah!!!! Forcing someone to belong to a Union in order to be employed should be unconstitutional.’

    Karen, what this case was about was not the forcing of people to join a union. It was about the union forcing the people who were NOT union members to pay a fee (fine or whatever you call it.) because the idea was that since the Union bargains for the rights of all of the workers even those who were NOT union members had to contribute because they benefited from the bargaining.

    I spent twelve years as a member of AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists).
    I was shop treasurer for three of those years. I was one of the original group who brought the Union to Arizona Opera. However, I had to vote FOR the union with one hand firmly holding my nose (the same way I had to vote for Obama).
    I can tell you that the only thing the union ever did for us was get our fee raised a bit. When there was a real, valid, workplace dispute, the Union was absolutely worthless.

    The inclusionary rule always bothered me because it seems like forcing the group of employees to contribute even though they were against the union from the beginning or, in the case of Hobby Lobby, they would be forced to pay for something in which they did not believe. Since I’m a dyed in the wool Liberal, you would think that I actually lined up along with the dissenters, but in this case, I think the majority was correct.

  13. I believe there is a clear difference between public and private sector unions. Chiefly that the public sector unions support the election of the people that sign their checks.

  14. The Democratic Party is the biggest loser. They received hundreds of millions of AFSCME and other public union dollars. Public employees have secure jobs w/ incredible benefits and pensions. They’ll do just fine.

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