Supreme Court Public Employee Unions
March 30, 2016 by staff
Supreme Court Public Employee Unions, Conservatives bent on crippling the power of public employee unions lost their best opportunity in years Tuesday when the Supreme Court deadlocked over a challenge to the fees those unions collect from non-members.
Rather than seeking to reschedule the case for their next term, the justices simply announced they were tied 4-4 – a verdict which leaves intact the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upholding the fee collections.
That was a major victory for the unions and the court’s four liberal justices following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month. During oral argument in January, it had appeared almost certain that the court would strike down the requirement in 23 states that teachers and government workers contribute to the cost of collective bargaining, even if they disagree with their unions’ demands.
The result would have been the demise of a nearly 40-year-old Supreme Court precedent that allows unions to impose such requirements on non-members. It would have made it harder for unions representing teachers, police and firefighters, and other government workers to maintain their power by affecting their pocketbooks.
The judicial deadlock allows the California Teachers Association to keep collecting the fees, but it does not have nationwide impact. The 9th Circuit standard applies only to states within its jurisdiction, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington as well as California.
The challengers in the case immediately promised to file a petition asking for a rehearing when the court returns to full strength. But five votes are required to win that effort. The court also could accept a similar case in the future; the National Right to Work Foundation has five cases in lower courts now that seek to strike down mandatory union dues and fees.
“With the death of Justice Scalia, this outcome was not unexpected,” Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, said. “We believe this case is too significant to let a split decision stand.”
It was the second time in two weeks that the justices had deadlocked in the wake of Scalia’s death, but the first major case to emerge in a tie. And it’s an indication that without Scalia, the justices may be equally divided in several other cases before the term ends in June.
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