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Supreme Court says forcing public employees to pay union fees violates free speech

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of public employees' First Amendment rights to decline to pay union dues, marking a potential blow to the funding for influential unions of public employees.

The decision marks a big moment for Justice Neil Gorsuch, who voted with the majority and broke the tie from 2016 when the court was split 4-4 in the same case after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

In the case, Janus v. AFSCME, a public employee in Illinois -- Mark Janus -- argued that it violated his First Amendment right when he was required to pay union fees, because he did not agree with all of the union's political positions.

The Supreme Court found that union fees violate the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on public matters, even if they disagree with the message.

The case challenges a previous Supreme Court ruling from 1977 that said unions can require all employees to pay fees because they could all benefit from negotiations even if they aren't members. The court was split 4-4 when it tried to rule on the case in 2016.

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