Attorney General Ellison defends union representation of workers at Supreme Court


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Attorney General Ellison defends union representation of workers at Supreme Court

Files two briefs in support of lower-court rulings that upheld exclusive union representation for workers 

 April 3, 2019 (Saint Paul) Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed two briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of exclusive union representation for workers. The briefs argue against Supreme Court review of two separate Minnesota-based cases. In those cases, lower courts found that a Minnesota statute authorizing exclusive union representation was constitutional and did not violate anyone’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech or association.

 “Exclusive union representation has been one of the building blocks of the middle class in Minnesota and across America. Despite the concerted nationwide assault on exclusive representation, the law and the facts of these cases strongly support maintaining it. I’m proud to stand for labor unions,” Attorney General Ellison said.

 In both briefs, Attorney General Ellison argued that the Supreme Court should deny the petitioners’ request for a writ of certiorari — that is, he argued the cases were correctly decided at the lower courts and the Supreme Court should not review them. The lower courts rested their decisions largely on a 1984 case from the Supreme Court known as Knight, that upheld the same Minnesota statute finding that exclusive representation does not infringe upon speech or associational rights of non union members.

 Both current cases arise from Minnesota. In Bierman vs. Walz, filed today, a group of homecare providers argued that being represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota — which was elected by a majority vote and certified representative of homecare workers — violated their right of free association. In Uradnik vs. Inter Faculty Organization, filed last week, a 19-year professor at St. Cloud State University argued that being represented by the Inter Faculty Organization — which was elected by a majority vote and certified under the Public Employees Labor Relations Act (PELRA) as the exclusive representative for traditional teaching faculty at the seven MnSCU campuses, including St. Cloud State — violated her First Amendment rights of free speech and association. Yet none of the plaintiffs is required to join the union, and they are able to freely and regularly communicate with relevant decision-makers about any aspect of their work. In both cases, the plaintiffs lost in federal district court, based in part on the Supreme Court’s Knight precedent. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the actions of both lower courts.