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A Hit to Unions, Right in the Purse

Published:  June 30, 2014

Unions took a hit today when the Supreme Court of the United States stated that in-home health care workers cannot be forced to pay dues to a union they do not wish to join. In Harris v. Quinn, a challenge was brought against the Illinois state requirement that public-sector employees pay dues to the unions who negotiate their contracts and represent them in grievances, even when the employees find the union distasteful.

This case gave the Supreme Court the opportunity to proclaim similar requirements as unconstitutional, but instead the Court chose to only address such requirements in regards to home health care workers. The Court stated that the workers in questions could not be required to pay union dues as they were not truly “full-fledged public employees” since they were hired and fired by individual patients and worked in private homes.

However, while the ruling was narrow, the implications are anything but. Now, in the 26 states that require public-sector workers to pay union dues, it is unclear whether such requirements will continue to be allowed. While proponents of required union dues say this decision went too far, others claim the decision did not go far enough. But the Court may have another chance at this question as early as next year in a case where California teachers are suing to avoid paying the mandated dues based on First Amendment grounds. This case is currently in the Ninth Circuit.

If you have any questions regarding unions and collective bargaining, please contact any of the attorneys at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.