Janus v. Am. Fed'n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31

Decision Date27 June 2018
Docket NumberNo. 16–1466.,16–1466.
Citation138 S.Ct. 2448,201 L.Ed.2d 924
Parties Mark JANUS, Petitioner v. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, COUNCIL 31, et al.
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

William L. Messenger, Springfield, VA, for Petitioner.

Noel J. Francisco, Solicitor General, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the Petitioner.

David L. Franklin, Solicitor General, Chicago, IL, for the State Respondents.

David C. Frederick, Washington, DC, for the Respondent AFSCME Council 31.

Dan K. Webb, Joseph J. Torres, Lawrence R. Desideri, Winston & Strawn LLP, Chicago, IL, Jacob H. Huebert, Jeffrey M. Schwab, Liberty Justice Center, Chicago, IL, William L. Messenger, Aaron B. Solem, c/o National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc., Springfield, VA, for Petitioner.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, State of Illinois, David L. Franklin, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Brett E. Legner, Deputy Solicitor General, Frank H. Bieszczat, Jane Flanagan, Sarah A. Hunger, Richard S. Huszagh, Lindsay Beyer Payne, Andrew Tonelli, Assistant Attorneys General, Chicago, IL, for Respondents Lisa Madigan and Michael Hoffman.

John M. West, Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC, Washington, DC, Judith E. Rivlin, Teague P. Paterson, AFSCME, Washington, DC, David C. Frederick, Derek T. Ho, Benjamin S. Softness, Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, P.L.L.C., Washington, DC, for Respondent American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31.

Justice ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under Illinois law, public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities. We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.

We upheld a similar law in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U.S. 209, 97 S.Ct. 1782, 52 L.Ed.2d 261 (1977), and we recognize the importance of following precedent unless there are strong reasons for not doing so. But there are very strong reasons in this case. Fundamental free speech rights are at stake. Abood was poorly reasoned. It has led to practical problems and abuse. It is inconsistent with other First Amendment cases and has been undermined by more recent decisions. Developments since Abood was handed down have shed new light on the issue of agency fees, and no reliance interests on the part of public-sector unions are sufficient to justify the perpetuation of the free speech violations that Abood has countenanced for the past 41 years. Abood is therefore overruled.

I
A

Under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (IPLRA), employees of the State and its political subdivisions are permitted to unionize. See Ill. Comp. Stat., ch. 5, § 315/6(a) (West 2016). If a majority of the employees in a bargaining unit vote to be represented by a union, that union is designated as the exclusive representative of all the employees. §§ 315/3(s)(1), 315/6(c), 315/9. Employees in the unit are not obligated to join the union selected by their co-workers, but whether they join or not, that union is deemed to be their sole permitted representative. See §§ 315/6(a), (c).

Once a union is so designated, it is vested with broad authority. Only the union may negotiate with the employer on matters relating to "pay, wages, hours [,] and other conditions of employment." § 315/6(c). And this authority extends to the negotiation of what the IPLRA calls "policy matters," such as merit pay, the size of the work force, layoffs, privatization, promotion methods, and non-discrimination policies. § 315/4; see § 315/6(c); see generally, e.g., Illinois Dept. of Central Management Servs. v. AFSCME, Council 31, No. S–CB–16–17 etc., 33 PERI ¶ 67 (ILRB Dec. 13, 2016) (Board Decision).

Designating a union as the employees' exclusive representative substantially restricts the rights of individual employees. Among other things, this designation means that individual employees may not be represented by any agent other than the designated union; nor may individual employees negotiate directly with their employer. §§ 315/6(c)-(d), 315/10(a)(4); see Matthews v. Chicago Transit Authority, 2016 IL 117638, 402 Ill.Dec. 1, 51 N.E.3d 753, 782 ; accord, Medo Photo Supply Corp. v. NLRB, 321 U.S. 678, 683–684, 64 S.Ct. 830, 88 L.Ed. 1007 (1944). Protection of the employees' interests is placed in the hands of the union, and therefore the union is required by law to provide fair representation for all employees in the unit, members and nonmembers alike. § 315/6(d).

Employees who decline to join the union are not assessed full union dues but must instead pay what is generally called an "agency fee," which amounts to a percentage of the union dues. Under Abood, nonmembers may be charged for the portion of union dues attributable to activities that are "germane to [the union's] duties as collective-bargaining representative," but nonmembers may not be required to fund the union's political and ideological projects. 431 U.S., at 235, 97 S.Ct. 1782 ; see id., at 235–236, 97 S.Ct. 1782. In labor-law parlance, the outlays in the first category are known as "chargeable" expenditures, while those in the latter are labeled "nonchargeable."

Illinois law does not specify in detail which expenditures are chargeable and which are not. The IPLRA provides that an agency fee may compensate a union for the costs incurred in "the collective bargaining process, contract administration[,] and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours [,] and conditions of employment." § 315/6(e); see also § 315/3(g). Excluded from the agency-fee calculation are union expenditures "related to the election or support of any candidate for political office." § 315/3(g); see § 315/6(e).

Applying this standard, a union categorizes its expenditures as chargeable or nonchargeable and thus determines a nonmember's "proportionate share," § 315/6(e); this determination is then audited; the amount of the "proportionate share" is certified to the employer; and the employer automatically deducts that amount from the nonmembers' wages. See ibid. ; App. to Pet. for Cert. 37a; see also Harris v. Quinn, 573 U.S. ––––, –––– – ––––, 134 S.Ct. 2618, 2633–2634, 189 L.Ed.2d 620 (2014) (describing this process). Nonmembers need not be asked, and they are not required to consent before the fees are deducted.

After the amount of the agency fee is fixed each year, the union must send nonmembers what is known as a Hudson notice. See Teachers v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, 106 S.Ct. 1066, 89 L.Ed.2d 232 (1986). This notice is supposed to provide nonmembers with "an adequate explanation of the basis for the [agency] fee." Id., at 310, 106 S.Ct. 1066. If nonmembers "suspect that a union has improperly put certain expenses in the [chargeable] category," they may challenge that determination. Harris, supra, at ––––, 134 S.Ct., at 2633.

As illustrated by the record in this case, unions charge nonmembers, not just for the cost of collective bargaining per se, but also for many other supposedly connected activities. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 28a–39a. Here, the nonmembers were told that they had to pay for "[l]obbying," "[s]ocial and recreational activities," "advertising," "[m]embership meetings and conventions," and "litigation," as well as other unspecified "[s]ervices" that "may ultimately inure to the benefit of the members of the local bargaining unit." Id., at 28a–32a. The total chargeable amount for nonmembers was 78.06% of full union dues. Id., at 34a.

B

Petitioner Mark Janus is employed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services as a child support specialist. Id., at 10a. The employees in his unit are among the 35,000 public employees in Illinois who are represented by respondent American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (Union). Ibid. Janus refused to join the Union because he opposes "many of the public policy positions that [it] advocates," including the positions it takes in collective bargaining. Id., at 10a, 18a. Janus believes that the Union's "behavior in bargaining does not appreciate the current fiscal crises in Illinois and does not reflect his best interests or the interests of Illinois citizens." Id., at 18a. Therefore, if he had the choice, he "would not pay any fees or otherwise subsidize [the Union]." Ibid. Under his unit's collective-bargaining agreement, however, he was required to pay an agency fee of $44.58 per month, id., at 14a—which would amount to about $535 per year.

Janus's concern about Illinois' current financial situation is shared by the Governor of the State, and it was the Governor who initially challenged the statute authorizing the imposition of agency fees. The Governor commenced an action in federal court, asking that the law be declared unconstitutional, and the Illinois attorney general (a respondent here) intervened to defend the law. App. 41. Janus and two other state employees also moved to intervene—but on the Governor's side. Id., at 60.

Respondents moved to dismiss the Governor's challenge for lack of standing, contending that the agency fees did not cause him any personal injury. E.g., id., at 48–49. The District Court agreed that the Governor could not maintain the lawsuit, but it held that petitioner and the other individuals who had moved to intervene had standing because the agency fees unquestionably injured them. Accordingly, "in the interest of judicial economy," the court dismissed the Governor as a plaintiff, while simultaneously allowing petitioner and the other employees to file their own complaint. Id., at 112. They did so, and the case proceeded on the basis of this new complaint.

The amended complaint claims that all "nonmember fee deductions are coerced political speech" and that "the First Amendment forbids...

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