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Knox v. Service Employees Int’l Union  (10-1121) 
Mid-year union dues increase requires Hudson notice (7-2); nonmembers must affirmatively consent (5-4)  

Decided June 21, 2012 
[Full text opinion]  

The union representing California public sector employees has an agency shop agreement which requires nonmembers to pay an annual fee for "chargeable" expenses - nonpolitical costs related to collective bargaining. In June 2005 the union sent out its annual Hudson notice which estimated that chargeable expenses would be 56.35% of its total expenditures. After the 30-day period that nonmembers had to object, the union announced a 25% increase to fund a broad range of political expenses, but nonmembers were given no choice as to whether they would pay into this fund.

The US Supreme Court held (7-2) that "when a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union must provide a fresh Hudson notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent." The Court described this case as one involving compelled funding of the speech of other private speakers or groups, which is akin to compelled speech and compelled association. Therefore, it is subject to "exacting First Amendment scrutiny." In order to prevent the union from extracting a loan from unwilling nonmembers, the union must issue a fresh Hudson notice and must exempt nonmembers unless they opt in.

Two Justices, CONCURRING in the judgment, criticized the majority for adopting an opt-in system of fee collection which was "not contained in the questions presented, briefed, or argued."

Two Justices, DISSENTING, pointed out that unions have always been allowed to calculate each year's fee based on its expenses during the previous year. Although an imperfect system, it is not unconstitutional.

SCOTUSblog article: When union fees go up, must a “Hudson notice” go out? 

Case below:  Knox v. California State Employees Assoc, 628 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir 12/10/2010) 
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted: June 27, 2011. 
Oral argument:  Tuesday, January 10, 2012. 

Questions presented in petition for certiorari:   

1. In Teachers Local No. 1 v. Hudson, this Court held that "[b]asic considerations of fairness, as well as concern for the First-Amendment rights at stake, ... dictate that the potential objectors be given sufficient information to gauge the propriety of the union's [agency] fee" extracted from nonunion public employees. 475 U.S. 292, 306 (1986). May a State, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, condition employment on the payment of a special union assessment intended solely for political and ideological expenditures without first providing a Hudson notice that includes information about that assessment and provides an opportunity to object to its exaction? 

2. In Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Ass'n, this Court held that "the State constitutionally may not compel its employees to subsidize legislative lobbying or other political union activities outside the limited context of contract ratification or implementation." 500 U.S. 507, 522 (1991) (opinion of Blackmun, J.); accord id. at 559 (opinion of Scalia, J.) (concurring as to "the challenged lobbying expenses"). May a State, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, condition continued public employment on the payment of union agency fees for purposes of financing political expenditures for ballot measures?  

Filings related to mootness issue: 

Briefs on the merits: 

Certiorari Documents: 


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