Court Ends Term with Big Win for Workers’ First Amendment Rights

In a victory for the First Amendment rights of public-sector workers across the country, the Supreme Court today found that requiring nonmembers to subsidize public-sector union activities violates the Constitution. This ruling of course follows the 4-4 split in a similar case two terms ago, where Justice Scalia would have cast the Court’s deciding vote. The addition of Justice Gorsuch thus made this outcome almost inevitable, and as expected he joined Justice Alito’s opinion recognizing the inherent unworkability of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977). Today’s decision rejects that precedent’s arbitrary line-drawing between public-sector unions’ collective-bargaining and political activities, recognizing instead that efforts in both areas are inherently political because each directly influences government policy. While the Court generally avoids disturbing precedent, it has a duty to correct its own errors, particularly in cases where the difficulty of amending the Constitution leaves no other way to reinstate bedrock principles. The Abood decision was manifestly mistaken. Today’s decision at long last remedies this violation of all workers’ rights to the freedom of speech and association.