With a conservative majority back in place, the Supreme Court on Thursday announced it will once again hear a challenge to the required payment of fees to public-employee unions, an important but controversial tool for the American labor movement.

Some public employees say their free-speech rights are violated by the requirement, and conservative legal activists have at least twice asked the Supreme Court to overturn a decades-old precedent that allows “agency fees.” Approximately 20 states allow them.

It appeared they would be successful the last time the issue was before the court, in January 2016. But Justice Antonin Scalia died a month later, and the court announced it had split 4 to 4 on the issue.

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