SACRAMENTO -- A major blow to organized labor was handed down Wednesday by the Supreme Court.
It ruled, by a 5-4 vote, with the more conservative justices in the majority, that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining.
Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said forcing workers to finance union activity violated the First Amendment.
The ruling now means that public-sector unions across the nation, which are already under political pressure, could lose millions of dollars.
"We are not going away. We are only going to continue to thrive," said Margarita Maldonado, a union representative.
The ruling says that requiring payments to unions that negotiate with the government forces workers to endorse political messages that may be at odds with their beliefs. Union members said that reasoning is flawed.
"We don't agree with this ruling, however, it's not going to be the end of what we do," said union member Jeremiah Miller. "What everybody says is that we help with your wages, we help negotiate your benefits, your working conditions. But what we do is so much more than that."
"Whatever it takes to make sure the collective voice to raise wages, to increase benefits, to make sure we have a real middle class in Sacramento, California and the country, that it is maintained," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
"Unions have been backed against the wall before in history and they've prevailed over and over," said Assemblyman Ken McCarty, D-Sacramento. "So, I am confident that once again working people will bounce back and persevere and win."
Steinberg and McCarty were just two political leaders on hand at the rally to voice their support for workforce unions.
"Organized labor is going to have to go to it's membership and sell why it's a value," McCarty said. "Why you should belong to us, why you should use their resources. What value we bring, not only to your wages and benefits, but uplifting the entire workforce, uplifting the entire community."
"This is disappointing but there is only one response. We must do our part to go on out and take back the House, to take back the Senate, and to dump Trump in 2020. That's the answer," Steinberg said.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to praise the decision, saying among other things that it was a "Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats."
Limiting the power of public unions has long been a goal of conservative groups. Yet, workforce unions have been preparing for this day long in advance.
"The only way to combat this is to communicate with your members, to talk to people and to organize," said Jamie McDole, union president. "We need to get our people to understand the value of the union, understanding the benefit of working together, and to get them signed up as members."
The decision is unlikely to have a direct effect on unionized employees of private businesses but they make up a much smaller portion than the public sector.