Federal appeals court rejects exclusive representation challenge in Washington

On February 26, 2019, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that a Washington state policy granting exclusive bargaining rights to a union did not violate workers’ First Amendment rights.
In 2006, the state authorized child care providers working under a state-subsidized program to select an exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining. The workers chose Service Employees International Union Local 925. Workers were not required to join the union, but SEIU Local 925 was granted the exclusive right to represent this class of workers. The plaintiff in the case, child care provider Katherine Miller, alleged that this practice, in light of Janus, violated her First Amendment rights because it authorized SEIU Local 925 to speak and negotiate on her behalf without her express consent.
The appeals court panel unanimously rejected Miller’s argument, citing the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight. In Knight, the high court dismissed a suit from several Minnesota community college instructors that made an argument similar to Miller’s. The high court held “the state has in no way restrained appellees’ freedom to speak on any education-related issue or their freedom to associate or not to associate with whom they please, including the exclusive representative.”
The appeals court panel was comprised of Judges Susan P. Graber, M. Margaret McKeown, and Morgan Christen. President Bill Clinton (D) appointed both Graber and McKeown to the court in 1998. President Barack Obama (D) appointed Christen to the court in 2011.