WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Wednesday that requiring government employees to donate part of their paycheck to public sector labor unions violates those employees’ constitutional rights under the First Amendment, overruling a 1977 case to the contrary and dealing a severe blow to the power of government unions.
The Supreme Court in its 1977 Abood case held, despite strong objections by conservatives, that the Constitution permitted compelled union dues. As the justices has looked more to the original meaning of the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause in recent years, they have issued a number of 5-4 decisions increasingly at odds with Abood.
A state employee in Illinois objected to any part of his paycheck going to labor unions, which often support left-wing causes and politicians. Unions and groups affiliated with the Democrat Party argued that the requirement should be upheld because the unions’ negotiating activities secure higher wages and benefits for all state employees.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority that such a law, nonetheless, violates the First Amendment rights of employees who do not wish to be part of the union, overruling Abood. The majority rejected the state’s arguments that government employees had no free speech rights in 1791 when the First Amendment was adopted.
“We will not engage in this halfway originalism,” Alito responded.
Wednesday’s decision is seen as an enormous blow to the power of public sector unions in advance of the 2018 and 2020 elections.
The case is Janus v. AFSCME, No. 16-1466, in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.