In Other SCOTUS News

[Content Note: Workers' rights.]

The US Supreme Court handed down another decision this morning, in the case of Harris v. Quinn, and dealt a serious blow to public sector unions.
The plaintiffs in this case, and their anti-union attorneys, argued that non-union members cannot be required to reimburse unions that bargain on their behalf for the costs it incurred during that bargaining. Without those reimbursements, the financial viability of the unions is in jeopardy.

Alito's opinion in Harris v. Quinn recognizes a category of "partial public employees" who cannot be required to contribute funds to the collective bargaining that they benefit from. This case involved Medicaid home health workers who are paid by the state but who work directly for individual patients. Nevertheless, the case hints that the Court will deal additional blows to public sector unions in the future. Alito labels a seminal Supreme Court opinion allowing unions to collect reimbursements from nonmembers "questionable on several grounds."

Harris is a First Amendment decision. As Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out at the oral arguments in Harris, and as Emily Bazelon expands upon over at Slate, Harris is the latest effort by conservatives to use "the First Amendment as their weapon" in order to implement their preferred policies through the judiciary. The purpose of the First Amendment, is to ensure a robust debate where no ideas are suppressed, so that the American electorate is best equipped to make choices at the polls.

...Harris, however, turns this principle on its head... The purpose of the First Amendment, according to the plaintiffs in Harris, is not to foster democracy, it is to render democracy irrelevant. This is a radical rethinking of our Constitution. And it was just embraced by five justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Joel Rogers has more on the case here, and why it's so important.

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