At the Supreme Court, a Big Threat to Unions

By the Editorial Board of THE NEW YORK TIMES

A case the Supreme Court will hear on Monday morning threatens to undermine a four-decade-old ruling that upheld a key source of funding for public-sector unions, the last major bastion of unionized workers in America.

The Abood ruling was a sensible compromise between the state’s interest in labor peace and productivity and the individual worker’s interest in his or her freedom of speech and association. Before the decision, strikes and labor unrest in the public sector were far more common, as workers struggled to have their voices heard in the absence of meaningful organized representation.

Stronger unions have not only helped ensure that essential public services are more efficient and effective; they have also led to higher wages and better benefits for workers. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, public employees in states with fair-share fees enjoy nearly the same compensation as their private-sector counterparts, while those in states that have banned such fees get 9 percent less.

But leaders of the “right to work” movement — which is funded largely by corporate interests and has helped 25 states ban fair-share fees — have been gunning from the start to overturn the Abood decision. Today they have a good friend on the court in Justice Samuel Alito Jr., who has written two majority opinions since 2012 calling the ruling into serious doubt.

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