By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Wednesday said it would oppose public sector unions in a major case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, reversing the view taken by the Obama administration in an identical dispute.
The Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the unions in a case brought by a non-union government employee in Illinois that targets fees his state and many others compel such workers to pay to unions in lieu of dues to fund collective bargaining and other organized labor activities. He is arguing that such fees violate the free speech rights of non-union members.
The high court heard a similar challenge out of California in January 2016 and had appeared headed toward ruling the fees unconstitutional. But conservative justice Antonin Scalia died a month later and the short-handed court ended up with a 4-4 split in April 2016 that left the law intact but set no nationwide precedent. In that case, the Obama administration filed a brief backing the unions.
Addressing the change of position, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in the court filing that after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the new case "the government reconsidered the question and reached the opposite conclusion."
The Trump administration has already adopted opposing positions to those taken by the Obama administration in other major cases pending at the Supreme Court, including another labor case on whether employers should be able to require workers to sign contracts that prevent them from making class action claims.
The administration also reversed an Obama administration stance by supporting Ohio in its bid to revive a state policy of purging people from voter-registration lists if they do not regularly cast ballots.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley. Editing by Sandra Maler)