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Public Sector Unions Dealt Major Blow By Supreme Court

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Public sector unions were dealt a potentially crippling blow by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, with the court striking down an Illinois law requiring non-union workers to pay fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

In the 5 to 4 ruling, the Supreme Court's conservative justices argued the forced payment of so-called agency fees violates the First Amendment.

"The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

He added, "Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee."

The fees were allowed to be required in the Supreme Court's 1977 opinion in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which Alito called "poorly reasoned."

President Donald Trump praised the court's decision in a post on Twitter, claiming the ruling will be a big loss for the financial prospects for Democrats.

"Supreme Court rules in favor of non-union workers who are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice without having those who control the Union deciding for them. Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!" Trump tweeted.

Agency fees are prevented from being used to support a union's political activities, although lawyers for Illinois state government worker Mark Janus argued collective bargaining with a government employer involves "inherently 'political'" speech.

Meanwhile, the unions contended the agency fees are needed to prevent non-members from becoming "free riders," enjoying the benefits of union representation without shouldering the costs.

Writing for the Supreme Court's more liberal wing, Justice Elena Kagan accused the majority of "weaponizing" the First Amendment and overthrowing a decision entrenched in the nation's law and economic life for over 40 years.

"The First Amendment was meant for better things," Kagan wrote. "It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance—including over the role of public-sector unions."

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