States don't violate workers' First Amendment rights when they engage in exclusive bargaining agreements with unions representing state-employed home healthcare workers, a federal appeals court ruled.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said last week that workers' constitutional rights aren't violated when a state exclusively negotiates with a particular union because they aren't forced to join the union. However, the unanimous three-judge panel ruled that unions can't discriminate against workers who opt not to join. The decision affirms an earlier ruling by the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
In the case at hand, Rebecca Hill, a home healthcare worker in Illinois, sued the Service Employees International Union-Healthcare and several states, alleging labor laws that allow the union to bargain on behalf of all home healthcare workers employed by state agencies violate the First Amendment.
Like other states, Illinois allows public employees to choose by a majority vote an exclusive bargaining representative to negotiate employee benefits with the state. Most of Illinois' home healthcare workers chose SEIU to negotiate employment terms, and their agreement will apply even to those who aren't part of the union.
In the suit, Hill claims the state labor laws force employees to be associated with the SEIU. She sought an injunction that would prohibit state home healthcare agencies from entering into exclusive bargaining agreements with unions.
The SEIU is also the exclusive bargaining representative for home healthcare employees in several other states.
The 7th Circuit panel said on Thursday that Illinois, and other states, have “rational” authority to use unions to understand the needs of its employees.
“Illinois has legitimate interests in hearing the concerns of providers when deciding what employment terms to offer them, and in having efficient access to this information. Negotiating with one majority-elected exclusive bargaining representative seems a rational means of serving these interests,” said Judge Joel Flaum, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the panel.