ABOOD v. DETROIT BOARD OF EDUCATION(1977)

 

No. 75-1153

Argued: November 9, 1976Decided: May 23, 1977

A Michigan statute authorizing union representation of local governmental employees permits an “agency shop” arrangement, whereby every employee represented by a union, even though not a union member, must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a service charge equal in amount to union dues. Appellant teachers filed actions (later consolidated) in Michigan state court against appellee Detroit Board of Education and appellee Union (which represented teachers employed by the Board) and Union officials, challenging the validity of the agency-shop clause in a collective-bargaining agreement between the Board and the Union. The complaints alleged that appellants were unwilling or had refused to pay Union dues, that they opposed collective bargaining in the public sector, that the Union was engaged in various political and other ideological activities that appellants did not approve and that were not collective-bargaining activities, and prayed that the agency-shop clause be declared invalid under state law and under the United States Constitution as a deprivation of appellants’ freedom of association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The trial court dismissed the actions for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Michigan Court of Appeals, while reversing and remanding on other grounds, upheld the constitutionality of the agency-shop clause, and, although recognizing that the expenditure of compulsory service charges to further “political purposes” unrelated to collective bargaining could violate appellants’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, held that since the complaints had failed to allege that appellants had notified the Union as to those causes and candidates to which they objected, appellants were not entitled to restitution of any portion of the service charges. Held:

    1. Insofar as the service charges are used to finance expenditures by the Union for collective-bargaining, contract-administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes, the agency-shop clause is valid. Railway Employees’ Dept. v. Hanson, 351 U.S. 225 ; Machinists v. Street. 367 U.S. 740 . Pp. 217-232.
    • (a) That government employment is involved, rather than private employment, does not mean that Hanson, supra, and Street, supra, can

[431 U.S. 209, 210]   

    be distinguished by relying in this case upon the doctrine that public employment cannot be conditioned upon the surrender of First Amendment rights, for the railroad employees’ claim in Hanson that a union-shop agreement was invalid failed not because there was no governmental action but because there was no First Amendment violation. Pp. 226-227.
    (b) Although public employee unions’ activities are political to the extent they attempt to influence governmental policymaking, the differences in the nature of collective bargaining between the public and private sectors do not mean that a public employee has a weightier First Amendment interest than a private employee in not being compelled to contribute to the costs of exclusive union representation. A public employee who believes that a union representing him is urging a course that is unwise as a matter of public policy is not barred from expressing his viewpoint, but, besides voting in accordance with his convictions, every public employee is largely free to express his views, in public or private, orally or in writing, and, with some exceptions not pertinent here, is free to participate in the full range of political and ideological activities open to other citizens. Pp. 227-232.
    2. The principles that under the First Amendment 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, prohibit 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. Pp. 232-237.
    (a) That appellants are compelled to make, rather than prohibited from making, contributions for political purposes works no less an infringement of their constitutional rights. P. 234.
    (b) The Constitution requires that a union’s expenditures for ideological causes not germane to its duties as a collective-bargaining representative be financed from charges, dues, or assessments paid by employees who do not object to advancing such causes and who are not coerced into doing so against their will by the threat of loss of governmental employment. Pp. 234-235.
    • 3. The Michigan Court of Appeals erred in holding that appellants were entitled to no relief even if they can prove their allegations and in depriving them of their right to such remedies as enjoining the Union from expending the service charges for ideological causes opposed by appellants, or ordering a refund of a portion of such charges, in the proportion such expenditures bear to the total Union expenditures. Hanson, supra; Railway Clerks v. Allen, 373 U.S. 113 . In view,

[431 U.S. 209, 211]   

    however, of the fact that since the commencement of this litigation appellee Union has adopted an internal Union remedy for dissenters, it may be appropriate to defer further judicial proceedings pending the voluntary utilization by the parties of that internal remedy as a possible means of settling the dispute. Pp. 237-242.

60 Mich. App. 92, 230 N. W. 2d 322, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., post, p. 242, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 244, filed concurring opinions. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C. J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 244.

Sylvester Petro argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs was John L. Kilcullen.

Theodore Sachs argued the cause and filed a brief for appellees. 

Footnote * ] Ronald A. Zumbrun and John H. Findley filed a brief for the Pacific Legal Foundation as amicus curiae urging reversal. Robert H. Chanin and David Rubin filed a brief for the National Education Assn. as amicus curiae urging affirmance.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The State of Michigan has enacted legislation authorizing a system for union representation of local governmental employees. A union and a local government employer are specifically permitted to agree to an “agency shop” arrangement, whereby every employee represented by a union – even though not a union member – must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a service fee equal in amount to union dues. The issue before us is whether this arrangement violates the constitutional rights of government employees who object to public-sector unions as such or to various union activities financed by the compulsory service fees.

I

After a secret ballot election, the Detroit Federation of Teachers (Union) was certified in 1967 pursuant to Michigan [431 U.S. 209, 212]   law as the exclusive representative of teachers employed by the Detroit Board of Education (Board). The Union and the Board thereafter concluded a collective-bargaining agreement effective from July 1, 1969, to July 1, 1971. Among the agreement’s provisions was an “agency shop” clause, requiring every teacher who had not become a Union member within 60 days of hire (or within 60 days of January 26, 1970, the effective date of the clause) to pay the Union a service charge equal to the regular dues required of Union members. A teacher who failed to meet this obligation was subject to discharge. Nothing in the agreement, however, required any teacher to join the Union, espouse the cause of unionism, or participate in any other way in Union affairs.

On November 7, 1969 – more than two months before the agency-shop clause was to become effective – Christine Warczak and a number of other named teachers filed a class action in a state court, naming as defendants the Board, the Union, and several Union officials. Their complaint, as amended, alleged that they were unwilling or had refused to pay dues and that they opposed collective bargaining in [431 U.S. 209, 213]   the public sector. The amended complaint further alleged that the Union “carries on various social activities for the benefit of its members which are not available to non-members as a matter of right,” and that the Union is engaged

    • “in a number and variety of activities and programs which are economic, political, professional, scientific and religious in nature of which Plaintiffs do not approve, and in which they will have no voice, and which are not and will not be collective bargaining activities, i. e., the negotiation and administration of contracts with Defendant Board, and that a substantial part of the sums required to be paid under said Agency Shop Clause are used and will continue to be used for the support of such activities and programs, and not solely for the purpose of defraying the cost of Defendant Federation of its activities as bargaining agent for teachers employed by Defendant Board.”

    The complaint prayed that the agency-shop clause be declared invalid under state law and also under the United States Constitution as a deprivation of, inter alia, the plaintiffs’ freedom of association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and for such further relief as might be deemed appropriate.

    Upon the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the trial court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Warczak v. Board of [431 U.S. 209, 214]   Education, 73 LRRM 2237 (Cir. Ct. Wayne County). The plaintiffs appealed, and while their appeal was pending the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in Smigel v. Southgate Community School Dist., 388 Mich. 531, 202 N. W. 2d 305, that state law prohibited an agency shop in the public sector. Accordingly, the judgment in the Warczak case was vacated and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the Smigel decision.

    Meanwhile, D. Louis Abood and other named teachers had filed a separate action in the same state trial court. The allegations in the complaint were virtually identical to those in Warczak, and similar relief was requested. This second action was held in abeyance pending disposition of the Warczak appeal, and when that case was remanded the two cases were consolidated in the trial court for consideration of the defendants’ renewed motion for summary judgment.

    On November 5, 1973, that motion was granted. The trial court noted that following the Smigel decision, the Michigan Legislature had in 1973 amended its Public Employment Relations Act so as expressly to authorize an agency shop. 1973 Mich. Pub. Acts, No. 25, codified as Mich. Comp. Laws 423.210 (1) (c). This amendment was applied retroactively [431 U.S. 209, 215]   by the trial court to validate the agency-shop clause predating 1973 as a matter of state law, and the court ruled further that such a clause does not violate the Federal Constitution.

    The plaintiffs’ appeals were consolidated by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which ruled that the trial court had erred in giving retroactive application to the 1973 legislative amendment. The appellate court proceeded, however, to consider the constitutionality of the agency-shop clause, and upheld its facial validity on the authority of this Court’s decision in Railway Employees’ Dept. v. Hanson, 351 U.S. 225 , which upheld the constitutionality under the First Amendment of a union-shop clause, authorized by the Railway Labor Act, requiring financial support of the exclusive bargaining representative by every member of the bargaining unit. Id., at 238. Nothing, however, that Michigan law also permits union expenditures for legislative lobbying and in support of political candidates, the state appellate court identified an issue explicitly not considered in Hanson – the constitutionality of using compulsory service charges to further “political purposes” unrelated to collective bargaining. Although recognizing that such expenditures “could violate plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights,” the court read this Court’s more recent decisions to require that an employee who seeks to vindicate such rights must “make known to the union those causes and candidates to which he objects.” Since the complaints had failed to allege that any such notification had been given, the court held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to restitution of any portion of the service charges. The trial court’s error on the retroactivity question, however, led the appellate court to reverse and remand [431 U.S. 209, 216]   the case. 60 Mich. App. 92, 230 N. W. 2d 322. After the Supreme Court of Michigan denied review, the plaintiffs appealed to this Court, 28 U.S.C. 1257 (2), and we noted probable jurisdiction, 425 U.S. 949 .   [431 U.S. 209, 217]  

    II

    A

    Consideration of the question whether an agency-shop provision in a collective-bargaining agreement covering governmental employees is, as such, constitutionally valid must begin with two cases in this Court that on their face go far toward resolving the issue. The cases are Railway Employees’ Dept. v. Hanson, supra, and Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S. 740 .

    In the Hanson case a group of railroad employees brought an action in a Nebraska court to enjoin enforcement of a union-shop agreement. 10 The challenged clause was authorized, [431 U.S. 209, 218]   and indeed shielded from any attempt by a State to prohibit it, by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 152 Eleventh. 11 The trial court granted the relief requested. The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the injunction on the ground that employees who disagreed with the objectives promoted by union expenditures were deprived of the freedom of association protected by the First Amendment. This Court agreed that “justiciable questions under the First and Fifth Amendments were presented,” 351 U.S., at 231 , 12   [431 U.S. 209, 219]   but reversed the judgment of the Nebraska Supreme Court on the merits. Acknowledging that “[m]uch might be said pro and con” about the union shop as a policy matter, the Court noted that it is Congress that is charged with identifying “[t]he ingredients of industrial peace and stabilized labor-management relations . . . .” Id., at 233-234. Congress determined that it would promote peaceful labor relations to permit a union and an employer to conclude an agreement requiring employees who obtain the benefit of union representation to share its cost, and that legislative judgment was surely an allowable one. Id., at 235.

    The record in Hanson contained no evidence that union dues were used to force ideological conformity or otherwise to impair the free expression of employees, and the Court noted that “[i]f `assessments’ are in fact imposed for purposes not germane to collective bargaining, a different problem would be presented.” Ibid. (footnote omitted). But the Court squarely held that “the requirement for financial support of the collective-bargaining agency by all who receive the benefits of its work . . . does not violate . . . the First . . . Amendmen[t].” Id., at 238.

    The Court faced a similar question several years later in the Street case, which also involved a challenge to the constitutionality of a union shop authorized by the Railway Labor Act. In Street, however, the record contained findings that the union treasury to which all employees were required to contribute had been used “to finance the campaigns of candidates for federal and state offices whom [the plaintiffs] opposed, and to promote the propagation of political and economic doctrines, concepts and ideologies with which [they] disagreed.” 367 U.S., at 744 .

    The Court recognized, id., at 749, that these findings presented constitutional “questions of the utmost gravity” not [431 U.S. 209, 220]   decided in Hanson, and therefore considered whether the Act could fairly be construed to avoid these constitutional issues. 367 U.S., at 749 -750. 13 The Court concluded that the Act could be so construed, since only expenditures related to the union’s functions in negotiating and administering the collective-bargaining agreement and adjusting grievances and disputes fell within “the reasons . . . accepted by Congress why authority to make union-shop agreements was justified,” id., at 768. The Court ruled, therefore, that the use of compulsory union dues for political purposes violated the Act itself. Nonetheless, it found that an injunction against enforcement of the union-shop agreement as such was impermissible under Hanson, and remanded the case to the Supreme Court of Georgia so that a more limited remedy could be devised.

    The holding in Hanson, as elaborated in Street, reflects familiar doctrines in the federal labor laws. The principle of exclusive union representation, which underlies the National Labor Relations Act 14 as well as the Railway Labor Act, is a central element in the congressional structuring of industrial relations. E. g., Emporium Capwell Co. v. Western Addition Community Org., 420 U.S. 50, 62 -63; NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175, 180 ; Medo Corp. v. NLRB, 321 U.S. 678, 684 -685; Virginian R. Co. v. System Federation No. 40, 300 U.S. 515, 545 -549. The designation of a single representative avoids the confusion that would result from attempting to enforce two or more agreements specifying different terms and conditions of employment. It prevents inter-union rivalries from creating [431 U.S. 209, 221]   dissension within the work force and eliminating the advantages to the employee of collectivization. It also frees the employer from the possibility of facing conflicting demands from different unions, and permits the employer and a single union to reach agreements and settlements that are not subject to attack from rival labor organizations. See generally Emporium Capwell Co. v. Western Addition Community Org., supra, at 67-70; S. Rep. No. 573, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., 13 (1935).

    The designation of a union as exclusive representative carries with it great responsibilities. The tasks of negotiating and administering a collective-bargaining agreement and representing the interests of employees in settling disputes and processing grievances are continuing and difficult ones. They often entail expenditure of much time and money. See Street, 367 U.S., at 760 . The services of lawyers, expert negotiators, economists, and a research staff, as well as general administrative personnel, may be required. Moreover, in carrying out these duties, the union is obliged “fairly and equitably to represent all employees . . ., union and non-union,” within the relevant unit. Id., at 761. 15 A union-shop [431 U.S. 209, 222]   arrangement has been thought to distribute fairly the cost of these activities among those who benefit, and it counteracts the incentive that employees might otherwise have to become “free riders” – to refuse to contribute to the union while obtaining benefits of union representation that necessarily accrue to all employees. Ibid.; see Oil Workers v. Mobil Oil Corp., 426 U.S. 407, 415 -416; NLRB v. General Motors, 373 U.S. 734, 740 -741.

    To compel employees financially to support their collective-bargaining representative has an impact upon their First Amendment interests. An employee may very well have ideological objections to a wide variety of activities undertaken by the union in its role as exclusive representative. His moral or religious views about the desirability of abortion may not square with the union’s policy in negotiating a medical benefits plan. One individual might disagree with a union policy of negotiating limits on the right to strike, believing that to be the road to serfdom for the working class, while another might have economic or political objections to unionism itself. An employee might object to the union’s wage policy because it violates guidelines designed to limit inflation, or might object to the union’s seeking a clause in the collective-bargaining agreement proscribing racial discrimination. The examples could be multiplied. To be required to help finance the union as a collective-bargaining agent might well be thought, therefore, to interfere in some way with an employee’s freedom to associate for the advancement of ideas, or to refrain from doing so, as he sees fit. 16 But the judgment clearly made in Hanson and Street is that such interference as exists is constitutionally justified by the legislative assessment of the important contribution of the union shop to the system of labor relations established by Congress. “The [431 U.S. 209, 223]   furtherance of the common cause leaves some leeway for the leadership of the group. As long as they act to promote the cause which justified bringing the group together, the individual cannot withdraw his financial support merely because he disagrees with the group’s strategy. If that were allowed, we would be reversing the Hanson case, sub silentio.” Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S., at 778 (Douglas, J., concurring).

    B

    The National Labor Relations Act leaves regulation of the labor relations of state and local governments to the States. See 29 U.S.C. 152 (2). Michigan has chosen to establish for local government units a regulatory scheme which, although not identical in every respect to the NLRA or the Railway Labor Act, 17 is broadly modeled after federal law. E. g., Rockwell v. Crestwood School Dist. Bd. of Ed., 393 Mich. 616, 635-636, 227 N. W. 2d 736, 744-745, appeal dismissed sub nom. Crestwood Ed. Assn. v. Board of Ed. of Crestwood, 427 U.S. 901 ; Detroit Police Officers Assn. v. Detroit, 391 Mich. 44, 53, 214 N. W. 2d 803, 807-808; Michigan Employment Relations Comm’n v. Reeths-Puffer School Dist., 391 Mich. 253, 260, and n. 11, 215 N. W. 2d 672, 675, and n. 11. Under Michigan law employees of local government units enjoy rights parallel to those protected under federal legislation: the rights to self-organization and to bargain collectively, Mich. Comp. Laws 423.209, 423.215 (1970); see 29 U.S.C. 157; 45 U.S.C. 152 Fourth; and the right to secret-ballot representation elections, Mich. Comp. Laws 423.212 (1970); see 29 U.S.C. 159 (e) (1); 45 U.S.C. 152 Ninth.

    Several aspects of Michigan law that mirror provisions of the Railway Labor Act are of particular importance here. A union that obtains the support of a majority of employees [431 U.S. 209, 224]   in the appropriate bargaining unit is designated the exclusive representative of those employees. Mich. Comp. Laws 423.211 (1970). 18 A union so designated is under a duty of fair representation to all employees in the unit, whether or not union members. E. g., Lowe v. Hotel & Restaurant Employees Local 705, 389 Mich. 123, 145-152, 205 N. W. 2d 167, 177-180; Wayne County Community College Federation of Teachers Local 2000 v. Poe, 1976 Mich. Emp. Rel. Comm’n 347, 350-353; Local 836, AFSCME v. Solomon, 1976 Mich. Emp. Rel. Comm’n 84, 89. And in carrying out all of its various responsibilities, a recognized union may seek to have an agency-shop clause included in a collective-bargaining agreement. Mich. Comp. Laws 423.210 (1) (c) (1970). Indeed, the 1973 amendment to the Michigan law 19 was specifically designed to authorize agency shops in order that “employees in the bargaining unit . . . share fairly in the financial support of their exclusive bargaining representative . . . .” 423.210 (2).

    The governmental interests advanced by the agency-shop provision in the Michigan statute are much the same as those promoted by similar provisions in federal labor law. The confusion and conflict that could arise if rival teachers’ unions, holding quite different views as to the proper class hours, class sizes, holidays, tenure provisions, and grievance procedures, each sought to obtain the employer’s agreement, are no different in kind from the evils that the exclusivity rule in the Railway Labor Act was designed to avoid. See Madison School Dist. v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm’n, 429 U.S. 167, 178 (BRENNAN. J., concurring in judgment). The desirability of labor peace is no less important in the public sector, nor is the risk of “free riders” any smaller.

    Our province is not to judge the wisdom of Michigan’s [431 U.S. 209, 225]   decision to authorize the agency shop in public employment. 20 Rather, it is to adjudicate the constitutionality of that decision. The same important government interests recognized in the Hanson and Street cases presumptively support the impingement upon associational freedom created by the agency shop here at issue. Thus, insofar as the service charge is used to finance expenditures by the Union for the purposes of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance [431 U.S. 209, 226]   adjustment, those two decisions of this Court appear to require validation of the agency-shop agreement before us.

    While recognizing the apparent precedential weight of the Hanson and Street cases, the appellants advance two reasons why those decisions should not control decision of the present case. First, the appellants note that it is government employment that is involved here, thus directly implicating constitutional guarantees, in contrast to the private employment that was the subject of the Hanson and Street decisions. Second, the appellants say that in the public sector collective bargaining itself is inherently “political,” and that to require them to give financial support to it is to require the “ideological conformity” that the Court expressly found absent in the Hanson case. 351 U.S., at 238 . We find neither argument persuasive.

    Because it is employment by the State that is here involved, the appellants suggest that this case is governed by a long line of decisions holding that public employment cannot be conditioned upon the surrender of First Amendment rights. 21 But, while the actions of public employers surely constitute “state action,” the union shop, as authorized by the Railway Labor Act, also was found to result from governmental action in Hanson. 22 The plaintiffs’ claims in Hanson failed, not because there was no governmental action, but because there was no First Amendment violation. 23 The [431 U.S. 209, 227]   appellants’ reliance on the “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine is therefore misplaced.

    The appellants’ second argument is that in any event collective bargaining in the public sector is inherently “political” and thus requires a different result under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. This contention rests upon the important and often-noted differences in the nature of collective bargaining in the public and private sectors. 24 A public employer, unlike his private counterpart, is not guided by the profit motive and constrained by the normal operation of the market. Municipal services are typically not priced, and [431 U.S. 209, 228]   where they are they tend to be regarded as in some sense “essential” and therefore are often price-inelastic. Although a public employer, like a private one, will wish to keep costs down, he lacks an important discipline against agreeing to increases in labor costs that in a market system would require price increases. A public-sector union is correspondingly less concerned that high prices due to costly wage demands will decrease output and hence employment.

    The government officials making decisions as the public “employer” are less likely to act as a cohesive unit than are managers in private industry, in part because different levels of public authority – department managers, budgetary officials, and legislative bodies – are involved, and in part because each official may respond to a distinctive political constituency. And the ease of negotiating a final agreement with the union may be severely limited by statutory restrictions, by the need for the approval of a higher executive authority or a legislative body, or by the commitment of budgetary decisions of critical importance to others.

    Finally, decisionmaking by a public employer is above all a political process. The officials who represent the public employer are ultimately responsible to the electorate, which for this purpose can be viewed as comprising three overlapping classes of voters – taxpayers, users of particular government services, and government employees. Through exercise of their political influence as part of the electorate, the employees have the opportunity to affect the decisions of government representatives who sit on the other side of the bargaining table. Whether these representatives accede to a union’s demands will depend upon a blend of political ingredients, including community sentiment about unionism generally and the involved union in particular, the degree of taxpayer resistance, and the views of voters as to the importance of the service involved and the relation between the demands and the quality of service. It is surely arguable, [431 U.S. 209, 229]   however, that permitting public employees to unionize and a union to bargain as their exclusive representative gives the employees more influence in the decisionmaking process than is possessed by employees similarly organized in the private sector.

    The distinctive nature of public-sector bargaining has led to widespread discussion about the extent to which the law governing labor relations in the private sector provides an appropriate model. To take but one example, there has been considerable debate about the desirability of prohibiting public employee unions from striking, 25 a step that the State of Michigan itself has taken, Mich. Comp. Laws 423.202 (1970). But although Michigan has not adopted the federal model of labor relations in every respect, it has determined that labor stability will be served by a system of exclusive representation and the permissive use of an agency shop in public employment. As already stated, there can be no principled basis for according that decision less weight in the constitutional balance than was given in Hanson to the congressional judgment reflected in the Railway Labor Act. 26 The only remaining constitutional inquiry evoked by the appellants’ argument, therefore, is whether a public employee has a weightier First Amendment interest than a private employee in not being compelled to contribute to the costs of exclusive union representation. We think he does not.

    Public employees are not basically different from private employees; on the whole, they have the same sort of skills, the [431 U.S. 209, 230]   same needs, and seek the same advantages. “The uniqueness of public employment is not in the employees nor in the work performed; the uniqueness is in the special character of the employer.” Summers, Public Sector Bargaining: Problems of Governmental Decisionmaking, 44 U. Cin. L. Rev. 669, 670 (1975) (emphasis added). The very real differences between exclusive-agent collective bargaining in the public and private sectors are not such as to work any greater infringement upon the First Amendment interests of public employees. A public employee who believes that a union representing him is urging a course that is unwise as a matter of public policy is not barred from expressing his viewpoint. Besides voting in accordance with his convictions, every public employee is largely free to express his views, in public or private, orally or in writing. With some exceptions not pertinent here, 27 public employees are free to participate in the full range of political activities open to other citizens. Indeed, just this Term we have held that the First and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of a public school teacher to oppose, at a public school board meeting, a position advanced by the teachers’ union. Madison School Dist. v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm’n, 429 U.S. 167 . In so ruling we recognized that the principle of exclusivity cannot constitutionally be used to muzzle a public employee who, like any other citizen, might wish to express his view about governmental decisions concerning labor relations, id., at 174. [431 U.S. 209, 231]  

    There can be no quarrel with the truism that because public employee unions attempt to influence governmental policy-making, their activities – and the views of members who disagree with them – may be properly termed political. But that characterization does not raise the ideas and beliefs of public employees onto a higher plane than the ideas and beliefs of private employees. It is no doubt true that a central purpose of the First Amendment “`was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs.'” Post, at 259, quoting Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 14 , and Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 218 . But our cases have never suggested that expression about philosophical, social, artistic, economic, literary, or ethical matters – to take a nonexhaustive list of labels – is not entitled to full First Amendment protection. 28 Union members in both the public and private sectors may find that a variety of union activities conflict with their beliefs. Compare, e. g., [431 U.S. 209, 232]   supra, at 222, with post, at 256-257. Nothing in the First Amendment or our cases discussing its meaning makes the question whether the adjective “political” can properly be attached to those beliefs the critical constitutional inquiry.

    The differences between public-and private-sector collective bargaining simply do not translate into differences in First Amendment rights. Even those commentators most acutely aware of the distinctive nature of public-sector bargaining and most seriously concerned with its policy implications agree that “[t]he union security issue in the public sector . . . is fundamentally the same issue . . . as in the private sector. . . . No special dimension results from the fact that a union represents public rather than private employees.” H. Wellington & R. Winter, Jr., The Unions and the Cities 95-96 (1971). We conclude that the Michigan Court of Appeals was correct in viewing this Court’s decisions in Hanson and Street as controlling in the present case insofar as the service charges are applied to collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes.

    C

    Because the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that state law “sanctions the use of nonunion members’ fees for purposes other than collective bargaining,” 60 Mich. App., at 99, 230 N. W. 2d, at 326, and because the complaints allege that such expenditures were made, this case presents constitutional issues not decided in Hanson or Street. Indeed Street embraced an interpretation of the Railway Labor Act not without its difficulties, see 367 U.S., at 784 -786 (Black, J., dissenting); id., at 799-803 (Frankfurter, J., dissenting), precisely to avoid facing the constitutional issues presented by the use of union-shop dues for political and ideological purposes unrelated to collective bargaining, id., at 749-750. Since the state court’s construction of the Michigan statute [431 U.S. 209, 233]   is authoritative, however, we must confront those issues in this case. 29 

    Our decisions establish with unmistakable clarity that the freedom of an individual to associate for the purpose of advancing beliefs and ideas is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. E. g., Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 355 -357 (plurality opinion); Cousins v. Wigoda, 419 U.S. 477, 487 ; Kusper v. Pontikes, 414 U.S. 51, 56 -57; NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449, 460 -461. [431 U.S. 209, 234]   Equally clear is the proposition that a government may not require an individual to relinquish rights guaranteed him by the First Amendment as a condition of public employment. E. g., Elrod v. Burns, supra, at 357-360, and cases cited; Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593 ; Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589 . The appellants argue that they fall within the protection of these cases because they have been prohibited, not from actively associating, but rather from refusing to associate. They specifically argue that they may constitutionally prevent the Union’s spending a part of their required service fees to contribute to political candidates and to express political views unrelated to its duties as exclusive bargaining representative. We have concluded that this argument is a meritorious one.

    One of the principles underlying the Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 , was that contributing to an organization for the purpose of spreading a political message is protected by the First Amendment. Because “[m]aking a contribution . . . enables like-minded persons to pool their resources in furtherance of common political goals,” id., at 22, the Court reasoned that limitations upon the freedom to contribute “implicate fundamental First Amendment interests,” id., at 23. 30 

    The fact that the appellants are compelled to make, rather than prohibited from making, contributions for political purposes works no less an infringement of their constitutional rights. 31 For at the heart of the First Amendment is the [431 U.S. 209, 235]   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. See Elrod v. Burns, supra, at 356-357; Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 565 ; Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303 -304. And the freedom of belief is no incidental or secondary aspect of the First Amendment’s protections:

      “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 .

    These principles prohibit a State from compelling any individual to affirm his belief in God, Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 , or to associate with a political party, Elrod v. Burns, supra; see 427 U.S., at 363 -364, n. 17, as a condition of retaining public employment. They are no less applicable to the case at bar, and they thus prohibit 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.

    We do not hold that a union cannot constitutionally spend funds for the expression of political views, on behalf of political candidates, or toward the advancement of other ideological causes not germane to its duties as collective-bargaining representative. 32 Rather, the Constitution requires only that [431 U.S. 209, 236]   such 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.

    There will, of course, be difficult problems in drawing lines between collective-bargaining activities, for which contributions may be compelled, and ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining, for which such compulsion is prohibited. 33 The Court held in Street, as a matter of statutory construction, that a similar line must be drawn under the Railway Labor Act, but in the public sector the line may be somewhat hazier. The process of establishing a written collective-bargaining agreement prescribing the terms and conditions of public employment may require not merely concord at the bargaining table, but subsequent approval by other public authorities; related budgetary and appropriations decisions might be seen as an integral part of the bargaining process. We have no occasion in this case, however, to try to define such a dividing line. The case comes to us after a judgment on the pleadings, and there is no evidentiary record of any kind. The allegations in the complaints are general ones, see supra, at 212-213, and the parties have neither briefed nor argued the question of what specific Union activities in the present context properly fall under the definition of collective bargaining. The lack of factual concreteness and adversary presentation to aid us in approaching the difficult line-drawing questions highlights the [431 U.S. 209, 237]   importance of avoiding unnecessary decision of constitutional questions. 34 All that we decide is that the general allegations in the complaints, if proved, establish a cause of action under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

    III

    In determining what remedy will be appropriate if the appellants prove their allegations, the objective must be to devise a way of preventing compulsory subsidization of ideological activity by employees who object thereto without restricting the Union’s ability to require every employee to contribute to the cost of collective-bargaining activities. 35 This task is simplified by the guidance to be had from prior decisions. In Street, the plaintiffs had proved at trial that expenditures were being made for political purposes of various kinds, and [431 U.S. 209, 238]   the Court found those expenditures illegal under the Railway Labor Act. See supra, at 219-220. Moreover, in that case each plaintiff had “made known to the union representing his craft or class his dissent from the use of his money for political causes which he opposes.” 367 U.S., at 750 ; see id., at 771. The Court found that “[i]n that circumstance, the respective unions were without power to use payments thereafter tendered by them for such political causes.” Ibid. Since, however, Hanson had established that the union-shop agreement was not unlawful as such, the Court held that to enjoin its enforcement would “[sweep] too broadly.” 367 U.S., at 771 . The Court also found that an injunction prohibiting the union from expending dues for political purposes would be inappropriate, not only because of the basic policy reflected in the Norris-La Guardia Act 36 against enjoining labor unions, but also because those union members who do wish part of their dues to be used for political purposes have a right to associate to that end “without being silenced by the dissenters.” Id., at 772-773. 37 

    After noting that “dissent is not to be presumed” and that only employees who have affirmatively made known to the union their opposition to political uses of their funds are entitled to relief, the Court sketched two possible remedies: First, “an injunction against expenditure for political causes opposed by each complaining employee of a sum, from those moneys to be spent by the union for political purposes, which is so much of the moneys exacted from him as is the proportion of the union’s total expenditures made for such political activities to the union’s total budget”; and second, restitution of a fraction of union dues paid equal to the fraction of total union expenditures that were made for political purposes opposed by the employee. Id., at 774-775. 38   [431 U.S. 209, 239]  

    The Court again considered the remedial question in Railway Clerks v. Allen, 373 U.S. 113 . In that case employees who had refused to pay union-shop dues obtained injunctive relief in state court against enforcement of the union-shop agreement. The employees had not notified the union prior to bringing the lawsuit of their opposition to political expenditures, and at trial, their testimony was principally that they opposed such expenditures, as a general matter. Id., at 118-119, n. 5. The Court held that the employees had adequately established their cause of action by manifesting “opposition to any political expenditures by the union,” id., at 118 (emphasis in original), and that the requirement in Street that dissent be affirmatively indicated was satisfied by the allegations in the complaint that was filed, 373 U.S., at 118 -119, and n. 6. 39 The Court indicated again the appropriateness of the two remedies sketched in Street; reversed the judgment affirming issuance of the injunction; and remanded for determination of which expenditures were properly to be characterized as political and what percentage of total union expenditures they constituted. 40   [431 U.S. 209, 240]  

    The Court in Allen described a “practical decree” that could properly be entered, providing for (1) the refund of a portion of the exacted funds in the proportion that union political expenditures bear to total union expenditures, and (2) the reduction of future exactions by the same proportion. 373 U.S., at 122 . Recognizing the difficulties posed by judicial administration of such a remedy, the Court also suggested that it would be highly desirable for unions to adopt a “voluntary plan by which dissenters would be afforded an internal union remedy.” Ibid. This last suggestion is particularly relevant to the case at bar, for the Union has adopted such a plan since the commencement of this litigation. 41 

    Although Street and Allen were concerned with statutory rather than constitutional violations, that difference surely could not justify any lesser relief in this case. Judged by the standards of those cases, the Michigan Court of Appeals’ ruling that the appellants were entitled to no relief at this juncture was unduly restrictive. For all the reasons [431 U.S. 209, 241]   outlined in Street, the court was correct in denying the broad injunctive relief requested. But in holding that as a prerequisite to any relief each appellant must indicate to the Union the specific expenditures to which he objects, the Court of Appeals ignored the clear holding of Allen. As in Allen, the employees here indicated in their pleadings that they opposed ideological expenditures of any sort that are unrelated to collective bargaining. To require greater specificity would confront an individual employee with the dilemma of relinquishing either his right to withhold his support of ideological causes to which he objects or his freedom to maintain his own beliefs without public disclosure. 42 It would also place on each employee the considerable burden of monitoring all of the numerous and shifting expenditures made by the Union that are unrelated to its duties as exclusive bargaining representative.

    The Court of Appeals thus erred in holding that the plaintiffs are entitled to no relief if they can prove the [431 U.S. 209, 242]   allegations contained in their complaints, 43 and in depriving them of an opportunity to establish their right to appropriate relief, such, for example, as the kind of remedies described in Street and Allen. 44 In view of the newly adopted Union internal remedy, it may be appropriate under Michigan law, even if not strictly required by any doctrine of exhaustion of remedies, to defer further judicial proceedings pending the voluntary utilization by the parties of that internal remedy as a possible means of settling the dispute. 45