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Supreme Court Rejects Exclusive Bargaining Rights Case

The case challenged a unions right to be the exclusive bargaining unit for non-members

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jun 07, 2021

The United States Supreme Court on Monday rejected a case that challenged a public sector union right to be the exclusive bargaining agent for workers.

The challenge was brought by Jade Thompson, a Marietta Ohio High School Spanish teacher who claimed that she had a First Amendment right to not be represented by a union. Her case sought to build off of three recent decisions by the court to limit public-sector union rights, including Knox v SEIU Local 1000, Harris v Quinn, and Janus v AFSCME Council 1000. Since Thompson is a teacher in a district with a collective bargaining agreement, she is required to comply with the agreement as a condition of her employment, even though she is not a member of the union.

During the Janus decision, which overturned the right of unions to collect fair share fees from non-members to cover mandatory issues like bargaining, Justice Samuel Alito said at the time that exclusive bargaining “substantially restricts the nonmembers’ rights.” Yet the Justices seemed unwilling to take this case up denying the petition without even hearing oral arguments. Thompson was appealing a federal appeals court ruling that refused to overturn a 1984 case, Minnesota State Board v. Knight, which protected the right to exclusive bargaining. By rejecting Thompson’s petition, the Supreme Court affirms a lower court ruling that exclusive bargaining rights are permissible.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, and the Freedom Foundation all filed briefs in support of eliminating exclusive bargaining, while the Marietta City School District Board of Education filed a brief in support of keeping exclusive bargaining rights. Thompson’s case was filed by Andrew Grossman, a lawyer at BakerHostetler in Washington D.C. According to his bio, Grossman has developed a nationwide litigation strategy to “recognize and enforce public workers’ First Amendment associational rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME.” He also worked on the Harris v Quinn case.

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