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Harris v. Quinn: Union Fair Use Fees at Stake

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on
"[The justices] remind me a little bit of a crime family in the sense that before they whack you, they send you a bullet, they let you know that you're next ... They've done that with the labor movement."

That's how law professor Garrett Epps summarized the situation when it comes to the two union cases before the Supreme Court this term, reports the International Business Times.

Harris v. Quinn -- Background

Personal care workers reimbursed by Medicaid (via the State of Illinois), claimed that the "fair share" provision of their collective bargaining agreement that requires them to pay a portion of union dues, which are not allocated for political purposes, violated the First Amendment. By compelling payment (whether a part of the union or not) to support collective bargaining, they argued that their speech was compelled through the union. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims.

Harris v. Quinn -- Legal Analysis

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit held, according to longstanding collective bargaining jurisprudence, that "[b]ecause the personal assistants are employees of the State of Illinois, at least in those respects relevant to collective bargaining, the union's collection and use of fair share fees is permitted by the Supreme Court's mandatory union fee jurisprudence."

As one of two union cases before the "pro-business" conservative court, there is a sense of dread among the labor movement. The president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trunk stated to Reuters: "The Supreme Court we have is the best friend that corporate America has ever had."

Because of the Court's recent decision in Knox v. SEIU (imposition of a special assessment by a public-sector union without consent violates the First Amendment), the Court may actually stray from stare decisis and overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (holding that non-union members may be forced to pay non-political portions of fees agreed upon in collective bargaining agreements).

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