The Supreme Court has agreed to review a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that held that requiring Illinois non-union home health care workers to pay a "fair share" of union dues based on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) does not compel their speech and association with the union in violation of the First Amendment. Harris v. Quinn, No. 11-691 (U.S. Sup. Ct., 1-1-13). A ruling that non-union members may not be compelled to pay non-political portions of fees will not only overturn longstanding Supreme Court precedent but make it even more difficult for public sector unions to raise funds.
Pursuant to an Executive Order by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, home-based health care workers whose payments are administered by the state and covered by Medicaid, are "public employees". As a result, these workers are subject to collective bargaining agreements that require non-union members to pay a portion, or "fair share" of union dues that are not allocated for political purposes.
Plaintiffs, two groups of home health care workers challenged the Executive Order in the district court on the grounds that they are not public employees and therefore are not required to pay a fair share of union dues pursuant to a CBA. The district court dismissed their claims.
The 7th Circuit upheld the lower court's dismissal of the workers' suit, finding that they are employees of the state because it has extensive control over the terms and conditions of their employment. Specifically, the court of appeals considered the fact that state does the following:
Sets the qualification standards and evaluates the home-care patient's choice in hiring of a worker;
Exercises ability to refuse to pay for services that do not meet state standards;
Approves a mandatory service plan that governs the responsibilities and working conditions for the worker; and
Controls all the economic aspects of employment, e.g. sets salaries and work hours, pays for training and pays all wages directly to the worker.
Further, in reaching its decision, the 7th Circuit relied upon the Supreme Court's longstanding determination in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 US 209 (1977), which held that non-union members may be compelled to pay non-political portion of fees as set forth in a CBA. Therefore, the appeals court held that the workers, as employees of the state, may be required to pay such fees based on a fair share agreement.
The Supreme Court will review briefs and hear oral arguments in this case in the next several months. A decision by the Court is expected to be issued by June 2014.