On November 13, the Supreme Court denied a June petition for certiorari seeking review of a Seventh Circuit decision upholding provisions of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (IPLRA) granting collective bargaining rights to home-based personal assistants and daycare providers paid through the state’s Home Services Program (HSP) and Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Had the Justices agreed to take up the case, Hill v. Service Employees International Union, No. 16-1480, the Court might well have struck a resounding blow to ongoing efforts by public employee unions to bring these quasi-public workers into their fold.
In the underlying case, a majority of both HSP and CCAP providers chose the SEIU as their exclusive bargaining representative. The union bargains with the state over key employment terms for the providers, but the providers are under no obligation to join the union or pay dues. The union cannot discriminate against a provider because of his or her membership in a labor union, or lack thereof. A group of nonunion providers challenged the exclusive bargaining representative provisions of the IPLRA, arguing the scheme violated their constitutional rights. They sued the union and state officials under Section 1983, alleging that, by authorizing the SEIU to bargain on behalf of HSP and CCAP providers, the statute forces nonmembers into an agency-like association with the union in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Case history. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that “plaintiffs’ theory runs counter to the established principle that a state does not infringe on associational rights by requiring the type of exclusive representation at issue here.” In Hill v. Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, the Seventh Circuit held the claims had been properly dismissed. The appeals court rejected their claims that the state law violated their First Amendment associational rights. The providers are able to present their own grievances to the state, publicly oppose the union, and associate with whomever they want without retaliation from the union, the appeals court found.
Therefore, the challenged legislative provision was not subject to heightened scrutiny, the Seventh Circuit found, and it survived rational basis scrutiny. Moreover, it held that the Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn did not alter this finding. In Harris, the Supreme Court assessed the IPLRA, struck down its mandatory-fee provision, and left the balance of the Act intact. The High Court said that personal assistants are not full-fledged public employees because they are considered public employees only for purposes of the IPLRA and not in other contexts. It held that requiring non-full-fledged public employees to pay fees supporting the union interfered with the employees’ associational rights and did not serve a compelling governmental interest. But Harris did not speak to the constitutionality of the exclusive bargaining representative provisions of the IPLRA.
Cert petition. The questions presented to the Court: (1) Whether the government can force individuals into an exclusive-representative relationship with an advocacy organization for any rational basis; or whether this mandatory association is permissible only if it satisfies heightened First Amendment scrutiny; and (2) whether, if exclusive representation is subject to First Amendment scrutiny, it is constitutional for the government to force individuals who are not full-fledged public employees to accept an exclusive representative for speaking and contracting with the government.
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