Organized Labor, the Supreme Court, and Harris v. Quinn: Déjà Vu All Over Again?
54 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 2, 2015
Harris v Quinn presented this issue anew in 2014 – it was the most recent chapter of litigation concerning “union security agreements” and their permissibility in the public sector – but by no means will it be the last. Harris relates to the constitutionality of such agreements, which compel membership or financial obligations on the part of union represented employees (frequently as a condition of employment) and endure throughout our economy in the private sector, as well as the more recently-organized public portion of it. The resolution of this and related issues inevitably affect, in some measure, the role of trade unions in American society. It cannot be gainsaid that this involves the democratic process itself in a pluralistic society, through which unions attempt to achieve their objectives through both the collective bargaining and political processes. For more than two centuries, the issue of so-called union security agreements, which compel membership in a labor organization in some sense of the word, has been fought out in American labor-management relations and in the courts. Complicating the contemporary relationship is that organized labor is in a period of retreat and decline. Related to this issue is the question of appropriate union discipline authority imposed on workers who defy various kinds of union rules and who are ostracized, for instance, over such matters such as strike-breaking.
Keywords: Supreme Court, Labor, Union, NLRA, union security agreements, IPLRA, service fee arrangements, public sector collective bargaining, first amendment
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