Abood v. Detroit Board of Education

Decision Date23 May 1977
Docket NumberNo. 75-1153,75-1153
Citation52 L.Ed.2d 261,97 S.Ct. 1782,431 U.S. 209
PartiesD. Louis ABOOD et al., Appellants, v. DETROIT BOARD OF EDUCATION et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

A Michigan statute authorizing union representation of local governmental employees permits an "agency shop" arrangement, whereby every employee represented by a union, even though not a union member, must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a service charge equal in amount to union dues. Appellant teachers filed actions (later consolidated) in Michigan state court against appellee Detroit Board of Education and appellee Union (which represented teachers employed by the Board) and Union officials, challenging the validity of the agency-shop clause in a collective-bargaining agreement between the Board and the Union. The complaints alleged that appellants were unwilling or had refused to pay Union dues, that they opposed collective bargaining in the public sector, that the Union was engaged in various political and other ideological activities that appellants did not approve and that were not collective-bargaining activities, and prayed that the agency-shop clause be declared invalid under state law and under the United States Constitution as a deprivation of appellants' freedom of association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The trial court dismissed the actions for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Michigan Court of Appeals, while reversing and remanding on other grounds, upheld the constitutionality of the agency-shop clause, and, although recognizing that the expenditure of compulsory service charges to further "political purposes" unrelated to collective bargaining could violate appellants' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, held that since the complaints had failed to allege that appellants had notified the Union as to those causes and candidates to which they objected, appellants were not entitled to restitution of any portion of the service charges. Held :

1. Insofar as the service charges are used to finance expenditures by the Union for collective-bargaining, contract-administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes, the agency-shop clause is valid. Railway Employes' Dept. v. Hanson, 351 U.S. 225, 76 S.Ct. 714, 100 L.Ed. 1112; Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S. 740, 81 S.Ct. 1784, 6 L.Ed.2d 1141. Pp. 217-232.

(a) That government employment is involved, rather than private employment, does not mean that Hanson, supra, and Street, supra, can be distinguished by relying in this case upon the doctrine that public employment cannot be conditioned upon the surrender of First Amendment rights, for the railroad employees' claim in Hanson that a union-shop agreement was invalid failed not because there was no governmental action but because there was no First Amendment violation. Pp. 226-227.

(b) Although public employee unions' activities are political to the extent they attempt to influence governmental policymaking, the differences in the nature of collective bargaining between the public and private sectors do not mean that a public employee has a weightier First Amendment interest than a private employee in not being compelled to contribute to the costs of exclusive union representation. A public employee who believes that a union representing him is urging a course that is unwise as a matter of public policy is not barred from expressing his viewpoint, but, besides voting in accordance with his convictions, every public employee is largely free to express his views, in public or private, orally or in writing, and, with some exceptions not pertinent here, is free to participate in the full range of political and ideological activities open to other citizens. Pp. 227-232.

2. The principles that under the First Amendment an individual should be free to believe as he will and that in a free society one's beliefs should be shaped by his mind and his conscience rather than coerced by the State, prohibit appellees from requiring any of the appellants to contribute to the support of an ideological cause he may oppose as a condition of holding a job as a public schoolteacher. Pp. 232-237.

(a) That appellants are compelled to make, rather than prohibited from making, contributions for political purposes works no less an infringement of their constitutional rights. P. 234.

(b) The Constitution requires that a union's expenditures for ideological causes not germane to its duties as a collective-bargaining representative be financed from charges, dues, or assessments paid by employees who do not object to advancing such causes and who are not coerced into doing so against their will by the threat of loss of governmental employment. Pp. 234-235.

3. The Michigan Court of Appeals erred in holding that appellants were entitled to no relief even if they can prove their allegations and in depriving them of their right to such remedies as enjoining the Union from expending the service charges for ideological causes opposed by appellants, or ordering a refund of a portion of such charges, in the proportion such expenditures bear to the total Union expenditures. Hanson, supra; Railway Clerks v. Allen, 373 U.S. 113, 83 S.Ct. 1158, 10 L.Ed.2d 235. In view however, of the fact that since the commencement of this litigation appellee Union has adopted an internal Union remedy for dissenters, it may be appropriate to defer further judicial proceedings pending the voluntary utilization by the parties of that internal remedy as a possible means of settling the dispute. Pp. 237-242.

60 Mich.App. 92, 230 N.W.2d 322, vacated and remanded.

Sylvester Petro, Winston-Salem, N. C., for appellants.

Theodore Sachs, Detroit, Mich., for appellees.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The State of Michigan has enacted legislation authorizing a system for union representation of local governmental employees. A union and a local government employer are specifically permitted to agree to an "agency shop" arrangement, whereby every employee represented by a union even though not a union member must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a service fee equal in amount to union dues. The issue before us is whether this arrangement violates the constitutional rights of government employees who object to public-sector unions as such or to various union activities financed by the compulsory service fees.


After a secret ballot election, the Detroit Federation of Teachers (Union) was certified in 1967 pursuant to Michigan law as the exclusive representative of teachers employed by the Detroit Board of Education (Board).1 The Union and the Board thereafter concluded a collective-bargaining agreement effective from July 1, 1969, to July 1, 1971. Among the agreement's provisions was an "agency shop" clause, requiring every teacher who had not become a Union member within 60 days of hire (or within 60 days of January 26, 1970, the effective date of the clause) to pay the Union a service charge equal to the regular dues required of Union members. A teacher who failed to meet this obligation was subject to discharge. Nothing in the agreement, however, required any teacher to join the Union, espouse the cause of unionism, or participate in any other way in Union affairs.

On November 7, 1969 more than two months before the agency-shop clause was to become effective Christine Warczak and a number of other named teachers filed a class action in a state court, naming as defendants the Board, the Union, and several Union officials. Their complaint, as amended, alleged that they were unwilling or had refused to pay dues 2 and that they opposed collective bargaining in the public sector. The amended complaint further alleged that the Union "carries on various social activities for the benefit of its members which are not available to non-members as a matter of right," and that the Union is engaged

"in a number and variety of activities and programs which are economic, political, professional, scientific and religious in nature of which Plaintiffs do not approve, and in which they will have no voice, and which are not and will not be collective bargaining activities, i. e., the negotiation and administration of contracts with Defendant Board, and that a substantial part of the sums required to be paid under said Agency Shop Clause are used and will continue to be used for the support of such activities and programs, and not solely for the purpose of defraying the cost of Defendant Federation of its activities as bargaining agent for teachers employed by Defendant Board." 3

The complaint prayed that the agency-shop clause be declared invalid under state law and also under the United States Constitution as a deprivation of, inter alia, the plaintiffs' freedom of association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and for such further relief as might be deemed appropriate.

Upon the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the trial court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. 4 Warczak v. Board of Education, 73 LRRM 2237 (Cir. Ct. Wayne County). The plaintiffs appealed, and while their appeal was pending the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in Smigel v. Southgate Community School Dist., 388 Mich. 531, 202 N.W.2d 305, that state law prohibited an agency shop in the public sector. Accordingly, the judgment in the Warczak case was vacated and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the Smigel decision.

Meanwhile, D. Louis Abood and other named teachers had filed a separate action in the same state trial court. The allegations in the complaint were virtually identical to those in Warczak,5 and similar relief was requested.6 This second action was held in abeyance pending disposition of the Warczak appeal, and when that case was remanded the...

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