Free Speech: U.S. Supreme Court rules against mandatory fees for Illinois home health-care workers

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that home health-care employees did not have to pay dues to a union that sought higher wages and benefits for its members. In writing for the majority in the 5-4 ruling, Justice Samuel Alito held that mandatory union dues under Illinois law were a violation of free speech, “…except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.” (Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2014, by Timothy M. Phelps and David G. Savage)

The ruling did not overturn the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that upheld the right of unions to collect unions dues for non-political activities. “Abood involved full-fledged public employees, but in this case, the status of personal assistants is much different,” wrote Alito. (Reuters, June 30, 2014, by Amanda Becker and Lawrence Hurley)

While the Illinois ruling gave union leaders much to worry about, they could also take comfort in its limited nature. Harvard law professor Benjamin Sachs noted that the case afforded the Court an opportunity to abolish mandatory union fees altogether and they did not rule that way. (Politico, June 30, 2014, by Stephanie Simon)