Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has reversed what was the expected outcome of one of the most important cases facing the Supreme Court, demonstrating the importance of who is and is not on the court.
The case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, was about whether public employee unions could collect a "fair share fee" from employees who benefit from what unions spend on collective bargaining and union representation but choose not to become members of the union. The Economic Policy Institute explains that "banning agency fees simply protects people who want to get something for nothing -- people who can fairly be called free riders, or freeloaders."
"Anywhere else in society it would be considered outrageous to get the benefits of a common enterprise without paying one's fair share. No one would defend someone who joined a condo association and enjoyed the benefits of its landscaping, maintenance, and security without paying the condo fees."
The Supreme Court had ruled unanimously in 1977 that this fee requirement was Constitutional. The conservative activists on this court, however, were prepared to overturn this unanimous precedent as part of a political strategy to force public employee unions into bankruptcy.
It was expected that the Court would rule 5-4 against the unions. However, today's announcement of a 4-4 tie in the absence of Scalia means a lower court ruling in the unions' favor will stand. The Friedrichs case came to the Supreme Court from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had ruled permitting the fair share fee. The tie vote means the 9th Circuit Court's ruling and the 1977 Supreme Court ruling will stand.
For more information about the Friedrichs case see:
"Today, the Supreme Court left standing nearly four decades of precedent and sound law that has worked for public employers and working people alike. This marks a significant defeat for the wealthy special interests who want to hijack our economy, our democracy, and even the United States Supreme Court. Millions of teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public service workers will continue to be able to band together in a union in order to speak up for one another, improve their communities, and hold the wealthy and powerful accountable.
"The Constitution, the law, and the facts are on our side, and we remain confident that we will continue to prevail against the onslaught of baseless litigation from those focused on trying to silence working people in order to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us."