Judgment Day for public unions: What’s at stake in the Supreme Court’s Janus case

Judgment Day for public unions: What’s at stake in the Supreme Court’s Janus case

When it hears Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the Supreme Court will decide whether public-sector unionism violates the First Amendment rights of workers who refuse to join unions. The case will be one of America’s most consequential for government labor-management relations. If the Court rules for the plaintiffs, state and local government workers in 22 states will no longer have to subsidize organized labor as a condition of employment; instead, they will be free to choose the organizations to which to contribute money, or to contribute not at all. Janus thus affords the Court an opportunity to reinstate workers’ rights to free speech and association, and to restore some political balance by preventing public-employee unions from using money forcibly pried from workers opposed to or unenthusiastic about their agenda.

If it rules this way, the Supreme Court would overturn a 40-year old precedent, Abood v. Detroit Federation of Teachers. Most observers think that the justices will do it: Janus marks the fourth time in five years that the Court has accepted a case about the constitutionality of public-sector unionism.

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