Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

Pamela J. Harris is a personal care assistant who provides in-home care to disabled participants in the Home Services Program administered by a division of the Illinois Department of Human Services (Disabilities Program). The state pays the wages of assistants who work with participants in either the Disabilities Program or a program run by the Division of Rehabilitation Services (Rehabilitation Program). In 2003, a majority of the Rehabilitation Program personal assistants elected Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois & Indiana as their collective bargaining representative. The union and the state negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that included a "fair share" provision, which required all personal assistants who are not union members to pay a proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process and contract administration. The Disabilities Program assistants rejected union membership in 2009.


In 2010, Harris and other personal assistants from both programs sued Governor Pat Quinn and the unions and claimed that the fair share fees violated their freedom of speech and freedom of association rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The appellate court held that the state may require its employees, including personal assistants such as the plaintiffs, to pay fair share fees and further held that the claims of the Disability Program were not ripe for judicial review.



  1. Does the fair share provision in the collective bargaining agreement between the state of Illinois and the union representative violate the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association of personal assistants who are not members of the union?

  2. Are the claims of the Disability Program plaintiffs ripe for judicial review?


  1. Yes, undecided. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. delivered the opinion for the 5-4 majority. The Court held that the apparently controlling precedent of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which stated the necessity of the fair share provision to prevent non-union members from taking advantage of the union's collective bargaining, cannot justify the violation of the petitioners' First Amendment rights in this case. Upon review, the Court held that the analysis in the Abood decision fundamentally misconstrued previous judicial precedent on the issue of collective bargaining as well as the differences between union relations in public-and private-sector employment. That precedent especially does not apply in this case because the petitioners are not full public-sector employees but are only considered such for the sake of limited collective bargaining. Because the union's role is so narrow in this case, there is no compelling interest served by forcing the petitioners to contribute that cannot be satisfied by less restrictive means.

    Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent in which she argued that the precedent Abood established was highly influential in protecting the best interests of employees and government entities by enabling the government to bargain with a single body without allowing non-union members to take advantage of these benefits. Although the majority opinion focused on the ways in which the petitioners are not public-sector employees and not subject to this precedent, Justice Kagan emphasized the vast degree of oversight the state exercised over them and the state's interest in working with an effective bargaining agent. Therefore, there is no reason to differentiate this case from the ruling required by the Abood precedent. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined in the dissent.