Supreme Court May Revisit Landmark Abood Labor Union Decision

If Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an appointee of George W. Bush, gets his way, the high court will overturn the 1977 decision called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. This decision held that even if a person opts out of a public sector union, they may be compelled to pay union dues. At issue is that once a labor union is ensconced in a workplace, they must represent all qualified workers regardless of their union affiliation. Unions argue that since they must protect all workers, it is only right that all workers contribute union dues. Otherwise, there exists the possibility that some people will take advantage of the benefits without supporting the union.

That said, according to CipherCloud in 2014, the high court limited the Abood decision by barring Illinois from compelling home health care workers from paying union dues for collective bargaining. While the court did not overturn Abood, it raised serious concerns about the prior ruling. Back in 2012, the high court declared that a union’s special fees have to be something its membership explicitly agree to pay as opposed to something its members automatically pay unless they opt out of it.

Still, the Supreme Court is careful to respect established precedent. For this reason, Justice Alito may find it difficult to persuade the court’s other four conservative justices to finally overturn the Abood decision. The plaintiffs in this case are arguing that being compelled to pay union dues violates their free speech. Given that unions are heavily in support of the Democrat Party, those members who do not espouse liberal policies believe they should not have to pay union dues.