A group of Illinois child care providers and in-home care providers for those with disabilities have asked the nation’s highest court to step in to their dispute with a prominent labor union, arguing the state’s decision to force the care providers to allow the Service Employees International Union to serve as their bargaining representative as a condition of accepting payment through state assistance programs violates their constitutional rights.
Last month, the care providers, through their counsel with the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center and the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a federal appeals court’s decision rejecting their case.
“A requirement that citizens accept SEIU’s representation to receive … payments for their services should be subject to the same constitutional scrutiny as would requiring citizens to accept any other political organization’s representation to receive public monies,” the plaintiffs wrote in their petition.
The petition was submitted at the same time as the LJC petitioned the court to take up a case questioning the constitutionality of state rules requiring non-union state workers to pay so-called “fair share” fees to unions that represent their co-workers.
In that case, docketed as Janus v American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31, plaintiffs argued the Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v Quinn, which found the state cannot force private caregivers not employed by the state to pay fees to unions, should be expanded to also include state workers who similarly do not wish to be represented by a union.
LJC lawyers indicated they explicitly desired to send the case to the Supreme Court to give the court the chance to find such forced payments unconstitutional, overturning the past legal precedents on the question.
In this case, docketed as Hill v SEIU, the LJC and National Right to Work foundation argued the court should simultaneously answer a different question left unanswered by Harris: Should states be permitted to compel non-state employees to be represented against their will by unions at all?
“Under Harris, no constitutionally sufficient state interest justifies imposing an exclusive representative on individuals who are not full-fledged public employees,” the plaintiffs argued. “Consequently, it is unconstitutional for states to extend these regimes of mandatory representation beyond government workplaces.”
In its decision, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which presides in Chicago, found the state “has legitimate interests in hearing the concerns of providers when deciding what employment terms to offer them and in having efficient access to this information.
“Negotiating with one majority-elected exclusive bargaining representative seems a rational means of serving these interests.”
In their petition, however, the plaintiffs argued the potential consequences of such reasoning could be far-reaching and profound.
They noted the state of Illinois has already moved to compel other groups to similarly submit to one state-designated bargaining representative. And they said the list will only continue to grow, should the Supreme Court not put a stop to it.
“These actions, however, will be the narrow end of the wedge if government officials can appoint exclusive representatives to speak for individuals for any rational basis,” the plaintiffs wrote. “Under this level of scrutiny, state officials could politically collectivize any profession or industry under the aegis of a state-favored interest group.
“For example, under the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, Illinois could mandate that other healthcare professionals (such as doctors or dentists) or businesses (such as hospitals or insurers) accept state-designated organizations as their exclusive representative for petitioning the State over its regulation of that profession or industry,” the plaintiffs said. “These ramifications are intolerable.”
While other precedents have held no one has the right to force a government to listen to them, in this instance, the plaintiffs argued, the state is extending such reasoning too far, dictating now who people must allow to speak for them.
They said such reasoning comes in defiance of previous Supreme Court decisions.
“If the First Amendment prohibits anything, it prohibits the government from dictating who speaks for individuals in their relations with the government,” the plaintiffs wrote. “Consequently, a citizen’s right to choose which organization, if any, lobbies the government on his or her behalf is a fundamental liberty protected by the First Amendment.”