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Harris v. Quinn

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 30, 2014
Case #: 11-681
Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, JJ. joined. Kagan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, which Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/11-681_j426.pdf

Constitutional Law: The First Amendment prohibits collecting an agency fee from non-public employees who do not support or wish to join a union.

Petitioners were in-home personal assistants, tasked with caring for Medicaid recipients, who would otherwise require institutionalized care. Petitioners are employed by the recipients, but paid by the state and considered state employees for unionization and collective-bargaining purposes. Respondents entered into collective-bargaining agreement containing a provision for an agency fee, requiring Petitioners to pay union fees even if they did not want to join the union.

Petitioner brought suit against Respondents alleging they shouldn't have to pay the union fees. The District Court dismissed Petitioners’ claims that the agency-fee violated Petitioners’ First Amendment rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that Petitioners were state employees.

The Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits collecting an agency fee from the personal assistants who do not want to join or support the union.

The Supreme Court reasoned that the Seventh Circuit found the agency fee constitutional based on the previous Abood case, which is not analogous to the current case, and therefore the Court refused to apply Abood to this case. The personal assistants here are much different than the state employees in Abood, in that they are essentially private employees paid by the state, rather than public employees. Furthermore, the union has no bargaining power to determine the personal assistants’ wages, which are set by the legislature.