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Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 21, 2012
Case #: 10-1121
Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a concurrence which Ginsburg, J., joined. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion which Kagan, J., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1121c4d6.pdf

First Amendment: When a public union wishes to raise money via a special assessment or mid-year increase in dues, it is required to issue notice to its constituents and is forbidden from taking funds from non-consenting nonmembers.

Petitioners, public employees who were not union members but were still required to pay the union a “fair-share fee” as a condition of their employment, were assessed a “special assessment” fee in addition to their regular annual union dues by the Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 (“Respondent”). The funds raised by the “special assessment” were intended for purely political purposes and Petitioners objected to not being given the opportunity to opt out and filed a class action suit alleging violations of their First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The District Court granted summary judgment because Respondents intended to use the levied funds for political purposes, and required Respondent to send out notice to all its members offering them the chance to opt of the assessment, but the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.

The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, holding that Respondent violated Petitioners’ First Amendment rights. According to the Court, when a public union wishes to raise money via a special assessment or mid-year increase in dues, it is required to issue notice to its constituents and is forbidden from taking funds from non-consenting nonmembers.