Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Weaken Public-Sector Labor Unions

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The U.S. Supreme Court turned away a bid to weaken the power of public-sector unions, refusing to reconsider a 1984 ruling that lets them serve as the exclusive bargaining agent for workers.

The justices without comment rejected an appeal by Jade Thompson, an Ohio high school teacher who said she has a First Amendment right not to be represented by a union. The appeal was one of the first to test the court’s appetite for labor issues since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation in October created a 6-3 conservative majority.

In rebuffing Thompson, the court’s conservative wing passed on a chance to extend a 2018 ruling that said government employees can opt out of paying fees to a union to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

A federal appeals court ruled against Thompson, even while saying the exclusive-representation requirement couldn’t be squared with the reasoning of the 2018 decision.

In writing the 2018 ruling, Justice Samuel Alito said designation of a union as an exclusive bargaining agent “substantially restricts the nonmembers’ rights.” But the 5-4 opinion didn’t mention the 1984 precedent, known as Minnesota State Board v. Knight, or directly say it might be in jeopardy.

The case is Thompson v. Marietta Education Association, 20-1019.

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