Supreme Court to vote on First Amendment public union debate

Today, the Supreme Court will vote on whether forcing workers to support public unions violates the First Amendment. Justice Neil Gorsuch’s silence during yesterday’s arguments left some to doubt whether he would vote with the conservative majority.

Such a ruling would conclude a decades-long political and legal campaign by conservative groups aimed at weakening public-sector unions. Those unions stand to lose fees from workers who object to the positions the unions take and from those who simply choose not to join while benefiting from the unions’ efforts on their behalf.

The court’s more conservative members said that requiring workers who choose not to join public unions to pay for collective bargaining and similar activities is an affront to their right to free speech. More liberal members said that states have broad leeway in managing public workplaces. They added that a ruling against the unions would require overruling a 40-year-old precedent and would strike down more than 20 state laws and affect thousands of union contracts and millions of workers.

Glenn Smith, professor of Constitutional and Public Law at California Western School of Law, spoke about the case on Good Morning San Diego.

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