Hill v. Service Employees International Union

Liberating workers from compulsory unionism

Cases > Freedom of Speech and Association > Hill v. Service Employees International Union
Lost: U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case
Case Court: U.S. Supreme Court

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act deems home healthcare and childcare providers who receive state subsidies to be “public employees” and requires a union to be the providers’ exclusive representative for bargaining with (e.g., lobbying) the state over regulations and policies related to the state care-services programs. Plaintiffs are providers alleging that the law violates their First Amendment rights to refrain from speaking or associating with the union. Lower courts upheld the law and the providers are petitioning for a writ of certiorari. PLF supports the petition because Americans cannot be compelled to speak or associate, or petition the government, against their wishes.

Illinois’ Home Services Program and Child Care Assistance Programs grant subsidies to people who provide home-based personal care and childcare services. Often these personal assistants are related to the adults and children requiring care. The statute allows a majority of providers to choose a union as the exclusive bargaining representative. The union “represents” all providers, both those who choose to join the union and those who do not join the union. The Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn (2014) struck down the portion of the law that required non-union members to pay dues, and the providers in this case do not pay union dues.

Their complaint is that, despite obviously wanting nothing to do with the union, the union and the state bargain exclusively with one another and the non-union providers are bound by whatever agreement the union and state negotiate. As the Seventh Circuit opinion phrases it, the law “authorizes Illinois to listen to only one voice before deciding pay rates, hours, and other key work conditions for the providers, and allows a majority of a given bargaining unit to select that voice.”

The personal care providers sued to challenge the exclusive representation laws. The district court dismissed the complaint as barred by the Supreme Court decision in Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight (1984), which upheld a state law that gave unions exclusive power to “meet and confer” with public employers on the theory that the dissenters were not prohibited from making their own views known to the state even though the state would not listen or act on them. The Seventh Circuit quickly affirmed, setting up the case for Supreme Court review.

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What’s at stake?

  • Workers who are deemed “public employees” for collective bargaining purposes are not permitted to work outside the union-negotiated terms and conditions, violating their rights to negotiate their own terms of employment.
  • This is an issue of growing national importance as states increasingly require in-home workers who are eligible to receive government subsidies to be subject to exclusive representation laws solely for the purpose of enhancing union power.

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