In a blow to organized labor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged for the cost of collective bargaining.
The vote was a predictable 5-4. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion with the court's conservatives joining him.
"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," Alito wrote. "We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern."
The decision reverses a 4-decades-old precedent and upends laws in 22 states. It also comes on the last day of this Supreme Court term, adding an exclamation point on the final sentence of a chapter that began with the appointment of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and saw conservative wins in decision after decision. This term was also an affirmation of the risky political gambit played by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who denied a confirmation hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's pick for the court after Justice Antonin Scalia died.