SCOTUS Hears Anticipated Labor Case

Justice Gorsuch expected to cast deciding vote in potential landmark SCOTUS decision

Justice Neil Gorsuch remained atypically silent last Monday during oral arguments in a case that could significantly alter U.S. labor law and for which he is expected to cast the deciding vote.

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to overturn a 1977 ruling, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The decision allowed labor unions that represent public employees to charge “fair share” fees to nonmembers for the costs of negotiating contracts that apply to all public employees.

Mark Janus has argued allowing such compulsory fees violates his First Amendment rights to free speech because the issues public-sector labor unions negotiate, such as wages and benefits, are inherently political since they affect public policy. Although the Supreme Court most recently agreed to review the possibility of overturning the Abood case in 2016 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, Justice Antonin Scalia died before the court made its decision, and the remaining justices deadlocked.

Sentiment seems to widely expect the court to now overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education with the addition of the conservative Gorsuch, marking a departure from other contentious cases in which Justice Anthony Kennedy often casts the swing vote.

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