Seventy-eight of the over 4,000 Michigan childcare providers who received state subsidies for offering services to low-income families voted to oppose having their union dues deducted from their subsidy payments. Six of the dissenting providers then filed a putative class action seeking equitable relief and monetary damages alleging that the dues deduction requirement in their collective bargaining agreement violated their First Amendment rights. The proposed class included all Michigan childcare providers who had any union dues deducted from their state subsidies.
The Michigan district court denied certification given what it found to be a conflict of interest between putative class members: specifically, that the proposed class of childcare providers seeking to oppose the subsidy provision included providers who had in fact voted in favor of the provision. Plaintiffs’ appealed and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. 717 F.3d 451 (6th Cir. 2013). Plaintiffs then obtained certiorari review by the Supreme Court, which remanded the case for further review in light of a decision in a similar mandatory agency-fee case in Illinois, Harris v. Quinn, 134 S. Ct. 2618 (2014).
On remand, the Sixth Circuit distinguished Harris because that case addressed the merits of the claims at issue and did not discuss class certification. Focusing on Rule 23(a)(4), the court once again held that the conflict between the named plaintiffs, who opposed paying union fees and many members of the proposed class who favor paying fees to the union, means that the named plaintiffs fail to satisfy the requirement that “the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interest of the class.” Because the interest of part of the proposed class remained in conflict with those of the named plaintiffs, the court affirmed the denial of class certification.