Federalist Society Teleforum Conference Call
Harris v. Quinn could be a landmark in labor law. The case asks the Court to decide whether the First Amendment bars Illinois from compelling personal homecare providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the state for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs.
Viewed narrowly, Harris is a challenge to the organization of home-care workers, asking the Court to clarify whether a state’s interest in maintaining “labor peace”—the justification for allowing government to burden workers’ First Amendment rights by requiring them to associate with and support a labor union—is sufficient in these circumstances. Home-care workers typically are not directly supervised by the state, are not hired or fired by the state, and do not work in state facilities. Yet a number of states have designated these workers as state employees solely for purposes of collective bargaining with the state. If the Court answers this question in the negative, it would likely end one of the labor movement’s most promising opportunities for expansion.
Harris also asks whether a state ever has an interest sufficiently compelling to require its own workers to speak to it through the intermediary of a labor union. It was only in 1977, in a case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that the Supreme Court held that “labor peace” justifies this imposition on government employees’ First Amendment rights. The Harris petitioners contend that Abood was wrongly decided and that governments never have any sufficiently compelling interest to compel their workers to support a labor union and, in particular, to support a labor union’s speech on matters like public-worker benefits and the size of government that are inherently political. The Court may or may not reach that issue, but if it does and rules against Illinois, the decision could be a watershed, giving other government employees the right to choose whether or not to pay to support a union.
- Prof. Samuel Bagenstos, University of Michigan Law School
- Andrew M. Grossman, Associate, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Adjunct Scholar, The Cato Institute
Call begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Teleforum calls are open to all dues paying members of the Federalist Society. To become a member, sign up here. As a member, you should receive email announcements of upcoming Teleforum calls which contain the conference call phone number. If you are not receiving those email announcements, please contact us at 202-822-8138.