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The Supreme Court Rules That Public-Sector Unions Can't Require Agency Fees

The Supreme Court on Wednesday handed down its long-awaited ruling in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31. The court ruled 5–4 in favor of the plaintiff, Mark Janus, who argued that the union agency fees he was required to pay were a violation of his constitutional rights. Public-sector employees, the court's conservative justices argued, cannot be forced by state law to pay agency fees.

Unions and their advocates argued that the loss of agency fees will financially decimate public-sector unions. To be sure, experts have predicted the ranks of public-sector unions will shrink by at least 10 percent.

Some experts, however, believe such a loss may actually make unions stronger. Earlier this year, Joseph McCartin, a labor historian and the executive director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, suggested the loss of agency fees may "actually encourage public unions to become a social movement again, as they were in the late 1960 and early 1970s before such fees existed." (Indeed, in an article for the New York Times, Noam Scheiber traced unions' recent efforts to strengthen their ranks in anticipation of a likely decision in the Janus case.)

The decision garnered praise from President Donald Trump, who tweeted that it was a "[b]ig loss for the coffers of Democrats."