Abood v. Detroit Board of Education

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Abood v. Detroit Board of Education
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued November 9, 1976
Decided May 23, 1977
Full case name D. Louis Abood v. Detroit Board of Education
Docket nos. 75-1153
Citations 431 U.S. 209 (more)
Argument Oral argument
Opinion announcement Opinion announcement
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
Majority Stewart, joined by Brennan, White, Marshall, Rehnquist, Stevens
Concurrence Rehnquist
Concurrence Stevens
Concurrence Powell, joined by Burger, Blackmun

Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), is a US labor law case where the United States Supreme Court upheld the maintaining of a union shop in a public workplace. Public school teachers in Detroit had sought to overturn the requirement that they pay fees equivalent to union dues on the grounds that they opposed public sector collective bargaining and objected to the political activities of the union. In a unanimous decision, the Court affirmed that the union shop, legal in the private sector, is also legal in the public sector. They found that non-members may be assessed agency fees to recover the costs of "collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes" while insisting that objectors to union membership or policy may not have their dues used for other ideological or political purposes.[1]


Michigan law authorized agency shop agreements between public agencies and unions representing government workers. The Detroit Federation of Teachers was certified as the exclusive union for Detroit schoolteachers in 1967.[2] D. Louis Abood, a school teacher, who objected to union membership and to the union's endorsements of political candidates, sued in Michigan state court in 1969.[3]


The Court upheld collective bargaining fees on the basis of private sector precedents in Railway Employees' Dept. v. Hanson, 351 U. S. 225 and International Ass'n of Machinists v. Street, 367 U. S. 740.[4]

The restriction on union use of funds for non-collective-bargaining purposes was based on First Amendment protections regarding freedom of speech and association. The Court found,

[The] notion that an individual should be free to believe as he will, and that, in a free society, one's beliefs should be shaped by his mind and his conscience, rather than coerced by the State ... thus prohibit[s] the appellees from requiring any of the appellants to contribute to the support of an ideological cause he may oppose as a condition of holding a job as a public school teacher ... the Constitution requires ... that such [political union] expenditures be financed from charges, dues, or assessments paid by employees who do not object to advancing those ideas and who are not coerced into doing so against their will by the threat of loss of governmental employment. [5]

Thus, in the United States' public sector, employees of the employer are entitled to not be members of the union, but they can be required to pay the documented costs of contract administration and negotiation. If they object, typically such a determination is submitted for hearing to a neutral arbitrator who will take evidence and render a final and binding decision as to the propriety of the fees assessed.[6][7]

See also


  1. ^ "Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ. - 431 U.S. 209 (1977)". Justia US Supreme Court Center. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  2. ^ Journal of collective negotiations in the public sector. Baywood Pub. Co. 1978. p. 214. 
  3. ^ Kaiser, Harry Mason (2005-04-11). Economics of commodity promotion programs: lessons from California. Peter Lang. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-8204-7271-3. 
  4. ^ "Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ. - 431 U.S. 209 (1977)". Justia US Supreme Court Center. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  5. ^ 431 U.S. 235-236 (1977)
  6. ^ Gregory, David L. "1997-1998 Preview U.S. Sup. Ct. Cas. 392 (1997-1998): Contesting Union-Imposed Fees: Must Arbitration Precede Litigation (97-428)". heinonline: 392. Retrieved May 19, 2016. 
  7. ^ Chicago Local Teachers Union v Hudson 475 U.S. 292. 310 (1986)

External links

  • Justia summary of the case
  • Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, a case before the Supreme Court regarding whether Abood should be overruled
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