US Supreme Court curbs power of public sector unions

Mark Janus (R) successfully challenged a 1977 court ruling that public sector workers can be required to pay a portion of union dues even if they are non members
AFP

Washington (AFP) – The US Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that non-members cannot be compelled to pay dues to public sector unions, dealing a financial blow to organized labor in the United States.

The court ruled by five to four that the practice of forcing workers to pay for unions that they do not belong to, even though the unions may work on their behalf, was unconstitutional.

President Donald Trump immediately welcomed the decision, a further blow to a US labor movement already in decline.

Trump said on Twitter that non-union workers “are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice without having those who control the Union deciding for them. Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!”

The case was brought by Illinois public sector worker Mark Janus, who challenged a 1977 court ruling that public sector workers can be required to pay a portion of union dues in order to cover their expenses and stop non-members from becoming “free-riders” — reaping the benefits of collective bargaining without assuming the costs.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion, said the 1977 ruling violated the First Amendment’s stipulations about freedom of speech.

“Under Illinois law, public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities,” the conservative justice wrote.

“We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of non-members by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

Alito added that “compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.” 

The ruling came a day after the top court dealt two other wins to conservative groups, upholding the president’s controversial travel ban and coming down in favor of anti-abortion centers in another sensitive case.

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