485 U.S. 360 (1988), 86-1471, Lyng v. International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace &

Docket Nº:No. 86-1471
Citation:485 U.S. 360, 108 S.Ct. 1184, 99 L.Ed.2d 380, 56 U.S.L.W. 4268
Party Name:Lyng v. International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace &
Case Date:March 23, 1988
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 360

485 U.S. 360 (1988)

108 S.Ct. 1184, 99 L.Ed.2d 380, 56 U.S.L.W. 4268

Lyng

v.

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace &

No. 86-1471

United States Supreme Court

March 23, 1988

Agricultural Implement Workers of America

Argued December 7, 1987

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

Under § 109 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (OBRA), no household may become eligible to participate in the food stamp program while any of its members is on strike, or receive an increase in the allotment of food stamps it is already receiving because the income of the striking member has decreased. Appellee unions and union members brought suit in Federal District Court, contending that § 109 is unconstitutional. The court granted appellees summary judgment and issued a declaratory judgment, holding the statute unconstitutional on the grounds that it interferes with appellees' associational rights and strikers' expressive rights under the First Amendment, and violates the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Secretary of Agriculture appealed the decision directly to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1252.

Held:

1. Section 109 does not violate the First Amendment. Pp. 364-369.

(a) The statute does not infringe the individual appellees' right to associate with their families or the associational rights of the individual appellees and their unions. It does not prohibit individuals from dining together or associating together to conduct a strike, nor in any other way "directly and substantially" interfere with family living arrangements or workers' ability to combine together to assert their lawful rights. Even if isolated instances can be found in which a striking individual may have left the other members of his household in order to increase their allotment of food stamps or left his union for that purpose, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is "exceedingly unlikely" that § 109 will have any effect at all. Cf. Lyng v. Castillo, 477 U.S. 635. The Constitution does not require the Government to furnish funds to maximize the exercise of the right of association or to minimize any resulting economic hardship. Pp. 364-368.

(b) The statute does not abridge appellees' right to express themselves about union [108 S.Ct. 1187] matters free of coercion by the Government. Rather

Page 361

than exacting payments from individuals, coercing particular beliefs, or requiring appellees to participate in political activities or support political views with which they disagree, § 109 merely declines to extend additional food stamp assistance to strikers simply because the strike has caused a decline in their income. Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Education, 431 U.S. 209, distinguished. The Constitution does not confer an entitlement to such governmental funds as may be necessary for individuals to realize all the advantages of their right to free expression. P. 369.

2. Section 109 does not violate the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, since it is rationally related to the legitimate governmental objective of avoiding undue favoritism in private labor disputes. Although the statute does work at least some discrimination against strikers and their households, this Court must defer to Congress' view that the disbursement of food stamps to such persons damages the program's public integrity, and thus endangers its legitimate goals. The fact that § 109 is harder on strikers than on "voluntary quitters" does not render it irrational, since the neutrality concern does not arise with respect to the latter persons. Congress' considered efforts to avoid favoritism are evidenced by § 109's provisos preserving prestrike eligibility and eligibility when a household member has refused to accept employment because of a strike or lockout. OBRA was also enacted for the legitimate purpose of protecting the Government's fiscal integrity by cutting expenditures, and, although this objective cannot be pursued by discriminating against individuals or groups, the Constitution does not permit this Court to disturb the judgment of Congress, the body having discretion as to how best to spend money to improve the general welfare, that passing § 109 along with its provisos was preferable to undertaking other budget cuts in the food stamp program. The contention that § 109 irrationally "strikes at the striker through his family" is without merit, since the food stamp program generally operates against the household of an ineligible person, and the fact that the Act determines benefits on a "household" rather than an individual basis is not constitutionally significant. Pp. 370-374.

648 F.Supp. 1234, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and STEVENS, O'CONNOR, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 374. KENNEDY, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 362

WHITE, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

A 1981 amendment to the Food Stamp Act states that no household shall become eligible to participate in the food stamp program during the time that any member of the household is on strike or shall increase the allotment of food stamps that it was receiving already because the income of the striking member has decreased. We must decide whether this provision is valid under the First and the Fifth Amendments.

I

In the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (OBRA), Pub.L. 97-35, 95 Stat. 357, Congress enacted a package of budget cuts throughout the Federal Government. Among the measures contained in OBRA were more than a dozen specific changes in [108 S.Ct. 1188] the food stamp program, id. §§ 101-117.1 One of them was the amendment at issue in

Page 363

this case, § 109 of OBRA, which is set out in the margin.2 The Committee Reports estimated that this measure alone would save a total of about $165 million in fiscal years 1982, 1983, and 1984. H.R.Rep. at 12; S.Rep. at 63.

In 1984, two labor unions and several individual union members brought suit against the Secretary of Agriculture in District Court, contending that § 109 is unconstitutional and requesting declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, and the Secretary moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that Congress' action was well within its constitutional prerogatives. After a hearing, the District Court denied both motions. 648 F.Supp. 1234, 1241 (DC 1986) (Appendix).

Both sides conducted discovery and filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On November 14, 1986, the District Court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and issued a declaratory judgment, holding the statute unconstitutional. 648 F.Supp. 1234. Specifically, the District Court found that the amendment to the Food Stamp Act was unconstitutional on three different grounds. First, it interferes or threatens to interfere with the First Amendment rights of the individual plaintiffs to associate with their families, with their unions, and with fellow union members, as

Page 364

well as the reciprocal rights under the First Amendment of the union plaintiffs to their members' association with them. Second, it interferes with strikers' First Amendment right to express themselves about union matters free of coercion by the Government. Third, it violates the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. As the basis for its conclusion on the equal protection claim, the District Court mentioned several somewhat related deficiencies in the amendment: it betrays an animus against an unpopular political minority, it irrationally treats strikers worse than individuals who quit a job, and it impermissibly directs the onus of the striker's actions against the rest of his family. Id. at 1239-1241. The Secretary appealed the decision directly to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1252, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 481 U.S. 1036 (1987). We now reverse.

II

We deal first with the District Court's holding that § 109 violates the associational and expressive rights of appellees under the First Amendment. These claimed constitutional infringements are also pressed as a basis for finding that appellees' rights of "fundamental importance" have been burdened, thus requiring this Court to examine [108 S.Ct. 1189] appellees' equal protection claims under a heightened standard of review. Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 383 (1978). Since we conclude that the statute does not infringe either the associational or expressive rights of appellees, we must reject both parts of this analysis.

A

The challenge to the statute based on the associational rights asserted by appellees is foreclosed by the reasoning this Court adopted in Lyng v. Castillo, 477 U.S. 635 (1986). There we considered a constitutional challenge to the definition of "household" in the Food Stamp Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2012(i), which treats parents, siblings, and children who live together, but not more distant relatives or unrelated persons

Page 365

who do so, as a single household for purposes of defining eligibility for food stamps. Although the challenge in that case was brought solely on equal protection grounds, and not under the First Amendment, the Court was obliged to decide whether the statutory classification should be reviewed under a stricter standard than mere rational basis review because it "`directly and substantially' interfere[s] with family living arrangements and thereby burden[s] a fundamental right." 477 U.S. at 638. The Court held that it did not...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP