Law School Case Brief
Harris v. Quinn - 573 U.S. 616, 134 S. Ct. 2618 (2014)
The First Amendment does not permit 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.
Illinois' Home Services Program (Rehabilitation Program) allowed Medicaid recipients who would normally need institutional care to hire a “personal assistant” (PA) to provide homecare services. Other than compensating PAs, the State's involvement in employment matters was minimal. Its employer status was created by executive order, and later codified by the legislature, solely to permit PAs to join a labor union and engage in collective bargaining under Illinois' Public Labor Relations Act (PLRA). Pursuant to this scheme, respondent SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana (SEIU-HII) was designated the exclusive union representative for Rehabilitation Program employees. The union entered into collective-bargaining agreements with the State that contained an agency-fee provision, which required all bargaining unit members who did not wish to join the union to pay the union a fee for the cost of certain activities, including those tied to the collective-bargaining process. Pamela Harris and other Rehabilitation Program PAs brought a class action against SEIU-HII and other respondents in Federal District Court, claiming that the PLRA violated the First Amendment insofar as it authorized the agency-fee provision. The District Court dismissed their claims, which the Seventh Circuit affirmed in relevant part, concluding that the PAs were state employees within the meaning of Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U. S. 209, 97 S. Ct. 1782, 52 L. Ed. 2d 261. The United States Supreme Court granted the PA's petition for certiorari revie.
Did the PLRA violate the First Amendment insofar as it authorized the agency-fee provision, requiring all bargaining unit members who did not wish to join the union to pay the union a fee?
The United States Supreme Court determined that the First Amendment prohibited the collection of an agency fee from PAs in the Program who did not want to join or support the union. The Court confined Abood's reach to full-fledged state employees because of Abood’s questionable foundations and because the PAs were quite different from full-fledged public employees. Moreover, the Court held that the agency-fee provision could not be sustained unless the union could not adequately advocate without the receipt of nonmember agency fees. No such showing has been made.
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