So in another of those 5-4 decisions that are becoming the gravamen of the Roberts Court, a conservative majority (with Justice Alito writing the opinion) in Harris v. Qiuinn held that SEIU could not collect mandatory dues from certain home health care workers operating under contract with the State of Illinois. Here’s how the AP’s insta-analysis described it:

The ruling is a setback for labor unions that have bolstered their ranks — and bank accounts — in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don’t have to share the burden of union costs.

But the ruling was limited to this particular segment of workers — not private sector unions — and it stopped short of overturning decades of practice that has generally allowed public sector unions to pass through their representation costs to nonmembers.

Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said home care workers are different from other types of government employees because they work primarily for their disabled or elderly customers and do not have most of the rights and benefits of state employees.

I’d say the Court is short just one Justice of a majority willing to generally ban on First Amendment grounds “fair share dues” for non-union members who benefit from collective bargaining agreements, which would be a huge blow to the labor movement. Remember that in November of 2016.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.