On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions before it concluded its 2013-14 year. While the Hobby Lobby opinion has garnered most of the attention, the Harris v. Quinn decision is no less important.
In Harris v. Quinn, the Court examined whether or not a government-funded employee can be forced to pay dues to a public sector union. In this case, home health care workers were required to pay “agency fees,” which included union dues. Several of the workers sued claiming that such a requirement violated their First Amendment rights. The Court agreed and ruled that the workers could not be compelled to pay these dues.
However, the Court did not go as far as labor unions feared it would. The Court issued its ruling in a very narrow context, applying it to situations where the workers were “partial public employees.” This may, however, signal a significant step toward the potential demise of unions. This ruling will certainly make it more difficult for public unions to expand, and may signal the Court’s willingness to lessen further the power of unions across both public and private sectors. This may be a good harbinger for any business owner that deals with unions.