Recently, the Supreme Court delivered a ruling that has cast a shadow over the future of organized labor. The 5-4 decision concluded that government workers who do not join unions do not have to contribute to expenses incurred from collective bargaining efforts. The ruling destroys a system that emerged from the New Deal era and made it possible for organized labor to improve wages. Now, workers do not have to contribute to the very system they benefited from. As a result, organized labor will see its influence diminish significantly. This could mark a major shift in workplace power dynamics.
On Tuesday, news of Trump’s Supreme Court pick to fill Anthony Kennedy’s vacant seat spells even more trouble for organized labor. Brett Kavanaugh is slated to appear before confirmation hearings in Congress. The deeply conservative federal judge will have a major impact on everything from Roe vs. Wade to campaign financing. Rest assured, his anti-labor bonafides will guarantee more legal blows to unions should he receive confirmation.
These developments coincide with a surge in favorable public opinion for organized labor. Millennials—who make up the largest share of the U.S. workforce—are open to joining unions. Workers in sectors that have had historically low levels of union representation are also agitating for workplace rights. In March, nonprofit childcare workers in Chicago went on strike to protest poor working conditions and stagnant wages.
Organizing efforts will continue despite the setbacks happening at the highest levels of power in the United States. Ultimately, grassroots opinion and action will decide the longterm fate of organized labor.