Does a Trump presidency mean public employees across the country will be freed from being forced to pay government unions against their will?

With one seat on the Supreme Court already vacant and more expected to open up in the next few years as aging justices retire, President-elect Trump — already dubbed the “Nominator-in-Chief” — has great power to shape the future of public sector unionization. If Trump nominates one of the roughly two dozen people he pledged to consider to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, it’s likely public employees nationwide would earn freedom from being forced to support politics they disagree with.

Since Scalia’s sudden death in February, the court has been short one justice and split over whether forcing public sector workers to pay a union as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment rights of free speech and free association.

In January, the full court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that would have given all public employees the freedom to choose if they want to pay a union.

The justices were widely expected to favor plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs, but Scalia’s passing left a split court that ultimately issued a one-line ruling in favor of unions. But because the decision was the result of a 4-4 tie, it didn’t have national impact, affecting only the 9th Circuit from which it came. Because of that, a full court that includes one of Trump’s constitution-supporting potential justices could issue a very different ruling in the near future. It could take up another similar case brought by the Liberty Justice Center in Illinois and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of child support specialist, Mark Janus, who also wants his First Amendment rights protected.

At the state level, down-ballot races also cleared the way for right-to-work legislation to pass in many new states. Right-to-work laws prevent unions from getting workers fired for not paying them. Lawmakers in Missouri, New Hampshire and Kentucky have tried for years to pass such laws, but they have been stymied along the way by pro-union governors or holdouts in the legislature.

In Missouri, it was term-limited Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto that halted the legislature’s attempt to pass right-to-work in 2015. Tuesday, Republican Eric Greitens defeated Democrat Chris Koster by a 6 point margin to succeed Nixon. Since Greitens has promised to pass right-to-work if elected and the legislature remains committed to the cause, it’s likely Missouri could be the nation’s 27th right-to-work state.

That is, if New Hampshire or Kentucky don’t beat it to the punch.

New Hampshire overcame its biggest hurdle to passing meaningful labor reform, a Democratic governor, by electing right-to-work supporter Chris Sununu, a Republican. If a right-to-work bill gets to his desk, workers should be hopeful that he will sign it. Past Democratic Gov. John Lynch vetoed right-to-work legislation in 2011. With Sununu at the helm and a legislature supportive of right-to-work, the path for worker freedom is promising in The Granite State.

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The Bluegrass State is also positioned for swift movement on the labor reform front, with Republicans taking over that state’s House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a century. Last year, the Kentucky Senate passed a right-to-work bill, but the progress was blocked by pro-union Democrats in the House, particularly now-ousted Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo. Voters were loud and clear Tuesday, not only flipping the House to Republicans, but giving the party most likely to support labor reform a supermajority.

In other states, the people spoke with similar force, rejecting unions’ attempts to undermine right-to-work and casting votes to bolster worker protections. The union-backed Measure 23 aimed at destroying right-to-work protections in South Dakota was shot down by an overwhelming 80 percent of voters. Nearly as many voters in Alabama, 70 percent, cast ballots in favor of Amendment 8, which enshrines right-to-work protections in the state constitution.

Tuesday’s election results suggest momentum for right-to-work and other labor reforms will continue to grow. In 2001, Oklahoma became the 22nd right-to-work state, but it took another 11 years until Indiana enacted a worker freedom law. Since 2012, however, three states followed suit. Now it’s likely at least three more states will go right-to-work in 2017, continuing the ever-quickening drive to expand worker freedom around the country.

Chantal Lovell is the media relations manager at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan. Vincent Vernuccio is the director of labor policy there. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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