Unions

An Evenly Divided Supreme Court Saves Public Sector Unions

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JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The Supreme Court handed down a 4-4 decision today on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case which would have effectively defunded public sector unions had the court ruled against the Teachers Association.

Because the court was evenly divided by a 4-4 vote, the lower court ruling in favor of the Teachers Association has been affirmed.

In a single-sentence order, the Supreme Court announced that the judgment of a lower court rejecting this effort to defund public sector unions “is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is dead. A four-decade-old opinion protecting public sector unions shall live to see another day.

There's no delicate way to say this and even if there were I probably wouldn't bother.

Justice Scalia's death saved public unions. I don't think there's any doubt that he would have ruled against public sector unions and instead of a 4-4 decision that leaves the status quo intact, we would have a 5-4 decision against unions.

It remains to be seen if this will change the political calculus of congressional Republicans who've vowed not to confirm President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. I don't expect it will to any significant degree because they're under the illusion that President Trump (Ha!) will nominate a justice hand-picked by the arch conservative Heritage Foundation.

  • ninjaf

    Justice Scalia’s death saved public unions. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he would have ruled against public sector unions and instead of a 4-4 decision that leaves the status quo intact, we would have a 5-4 decision against unions.

    I want to see the televangelists on TV now claiming that unions are sanctified by God because why else would he have taken Scalia at such an inopportune time? It was obviously His plan so unions are now a God-given right. Who are we to question? If it works that way for gays and natural disasters then it has to work this way for things that go against their political beliefs, otherwise they are just cherry picking to confirm their own biases. Oh, wait…

  • muselet

    The least-disruptive way for the plaintiffs to get what they claim to want—to avoid union cooties—would be to work to change the law requiring unions to bargain on behalf of everyone, member or not, working in a union shop.

    Randians and other glibertarian Übermenschen could negotiate their own salaries and benefits instead of being dragged down by the common people in the union, and wouldn’t have to pay agency fees. Unions would represent only those workers who wanted to be so represented, and would be rid of whingeing free riders.

    But that course of action wouldn’t have killed public sector unions—and set a precedent for killing private sector unions—so it was never considered. Instead, the plaintiffs swung for the fences, trying to reestablish the Lochner era before they moved on to cushy positions at Righty think tanks.

    Expect to see this issue bubble up through the courts again, and soon.

    –alopecia

  • Ceoltoir

    Word is that John Roberts was hoping to use this case to impose the Orwellian “right to work” on the entire country by judicial fiat.

    • muselet

      I don’t know about John Roberts, but that was the whole point of the case.

      –alopecia