Roundup of Harris v. Quinn Commentary

Published July 1st, 2014 -  - 07.01.144


Since the Court decided Harris v. Quinn, there has been a slew of insightful analysis around the internet.  From the team here at OnLabor, Jack Goldsmith’s take is here and Ben Sachs’s is here.  Sachs also did an interview with The Takeaway and with HuffPost Live to discuss the opinion.

A roundup of other commentary is below:

Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post’s wonkblog explains why Harris “isn’t as bad as it sounds.”  She argues that Justice Alito could have “taken a kill shot” at public sector unions, but instead only limited unions’ ability to represent “quasi-public employees.”

Emily Bazelon and Laurence Tribe, both writing at Slate, each analyze the decision.  Bazelon explains that “unions aren’t dead yet, but Alito is gunning for them.”  She also writes that the decision is “bad for people with disabilities and the workers who care for them at home and get paid through government programs like Medicaid.”  Tribe situates Harris within an emerging line of First Amendment jurisprudence: one where freedom of speech is a tool to advance “a deregulatory economic agenda.”

Harold Meyerson at the American Prospect argues that the opinion appears “designed to cripple unions” by incentivizing “free riders.”  He characterizes the case as the Supreme Court saying “America’s most disadvantaged workers . . . should be disadvantaged some more.”

Andrew Grossman at Cato’s blog writes that Harris is a “win for worker’s first amendment rights.”  Grossman agrees with the Court that “Abood is ‘something of an anomaly,’” and argues that Abood “sacrifices public workers’ First Amendment rights of speech and association to avoid their ‘free-riding’” on the dues of the union members.  Grossman characterizes this anti-free-riding principle as “the kind of thing that rarely if ever is sufficient to overcome First Amendment objections.”

Alexander Volokh at Reason looks to what’s next in future Supreme Court cases.  He argues that “mandatory union dues” from non-members might “become a thing of the past” in public sector unions.

Finally, SCOTUSblog is hosting a Symposium on the case.  In it, Terry Pell writes that Harris is a “preview of things to comes.”  Pell is currently part of a lawsuit in California challenging compulsory union dues for all public employees, beyond home care workers like those in Harris—he writes that because Harris didn’t overturn Abood, “millions of public teachers, firefighters, and police continue to be subject to compulsory dues.”  Jason Walta has a different take, and argues that “like the Big Bad Wolf of fairy-tale fame, yesterday’s majority huffed, puffed, and huffed some more about the supposed infirmities of Abood, but it was ultimately unable to bring down the brick house of settled precedent.”  Samuel Bagenstos writes that Harris, although it didn’t overturn Abood, “is hardly innocuous.”  He argues that the decision creates an upcoming “conflict in public employee speech law” as well as “immediate risks to people with disabilities” whose caregivers are paid by Medicaid.  Last but not least, John Eastman closely analyzes Harris‘s reading of Abood, and characterizes Abood as now “a ghoul, one of the walking dead.”

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