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In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, transitions, and endings. He is often depicted as having two faces, one looking to the future and one to the past. The Supreme Court’s Janus v AFSCME case of last Term is fittingly named.Stunning in its disregard of principles of stare decisis, Janus overruled the forty-year-old precedent Abood v Detroit Board of Education.The Janus decision marks the end of the post – New Deal compromise with respect to public sector unions and the First Amendment. Looking to the future, Janus lays the groundwork for further attack on labor rights – as well as for a broader erosion of civil society and democracy at the expense of corporate power. In that way, Janus represents an unequivocal transition to what Justice Kagan termed a “weaponized” view of the First Amendment among the Court’s majority – indeed, far more so than her dissent elaborates.

But Janus may also have another, more hopeful, forward-looking face. Ultimately, Janus’s undoing of the compromise that governed union fees for nearly fifty years provides the opportunity for a systematic rethinking of the relationship between labor and the Constitution and, more generally, of the meaning of the First Amendment.


First Amendment | Labor and Employment Law | Law

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