Law School Case Brief
Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ. - 431 U.S. 209, 97 S. Ct. 1782 (1977)
A union that obtains the support of a majority of employees in the appropriate bargaining unit is designated the exclusive representative of those employees. Mich. Comp. Laws § 423.211 (1970). A union so designated is under a duty of fair representation to all employees in the unit, whether or not union members. And in carrying out all of its various responsibilities, a recognized union may seek to have an agency-shop clause included in a collective-bargaining agreement.
Plaintiffs, public school teachers in Detroit, Michigan, filed class actions against defendants, the Detroit Board of Education and the exclusive union representative of public teachers in Detroit (Union), after the two entered into a collective bargaining agreement that contained an agency shop clause, which required every teacher who had not become a union member to pay the Union a service charge equal to the regular dues required of union members. A teacher who failed to meet that obligation was subject to discharge. The complaint alleged that the Union was engaged in a variety of ideological activities of which plaintiffs did not approve. Plaintiffs sought to have the agency-shop clause declared invalid as a deprivation of their freedom of association protected by U.S. Const. amend. I and XIV. The lower courts held that the plaintiffs were entitled to no relief; hence, the current petition.
Did the “agency shop” arrangement in the collective bargaining agreement entered into by the Board of Education and the union, which required employees who were not union members to pay to the union as a condition of employment, violate the employees’ constitutional rights?
No, generally. But, yes, with regard to its use of service charges for political and ideological purposes which were unrelated to collective bargaining activities.
TheUnited States Supreme Court held that an “agency shop” arrangement between a local government employer and a union representing local government employees did not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendment freedom of expression and association rights of employees who objected to public sector unions, or to various union activities, insofar as the service charges collected by the union were used to finance union expenditures for the purposes of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment, it being immaterial that because public employee unions attempted to influence governmental policymaking, their activities in collective bargaining might properly be termed political. However, the use of service charges for political and ideological purposes which were unrelated to collective bargaining and as to which an employee objected was unconstitutional. As such, if he plaintiffs proved that their constitutional rights had been violated by the union's use of service charges for political and ideological purposes unrelated to collective bargaining activities, the plaintiffs would be entitled to an appropriate remedy. Hence, the Court concluded that the lower court erred in holding that the plaintiffs were entitled to no relief, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
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