The effects of Justice Scalia’s untimely death have never been more apparent than yesterday when labor unions won a case that had seemed all but impossible.
The high-profile dispute challenged the union practice of collecting fees from workers who choose not to join their unions.
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association involves a group of teachers suffering from that very practice. Despite the fact that she does not belong to a union, public school teacher and lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs is forced to pay nearly $650 a year to cover bargaining costs.
Union officials say these fees are necessary because unions represent all workers in their sectors – not just union members. President Lee Saunders of the American Federal of State called the case a “political attack” on unions.
The final vote was a deadlock. There’s no doubt Justice Scalia would have voted to outlaw the 40-year old union system, bringing the vote to 5-4. Instead, the decision fell to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided to uphold the practice. This is a major blow to groups that have spent years trying to convince the court to overrule the 1977 precedent (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education) that allows unions to demand “fair share” fees from both members and non-members.
The court’s decision will affect more than 5 million workers in the US.
Public unions, on the other hand, were overjoyed with the Supreme Court “tie.” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia called the case a “political ploy to silence public employees like teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty, and other educators to work together to shape their profession,” and referred to it as a matter of “workplace rights.”
Whose rights, I wonder?
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans remain staunch in their refusal to even hold hearings on Supreme Court nominees until the next president takes office…meaning there will likely be more 4-4 votes in the months to come (despite the fact that Supreme Court Justices are supposed to be above partisan politics).