The Supreme Court vote resulted in a 4-4 tie, meaning no precedent was set and the appeals court upheld the 1977 Supreme Court decision.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia would have tipped the vote in favor of the conservative opinion with a 5-4 majority. His death in February resulted in a 4-4 tie for the public unions case in the Supreme Court.
By Andrew Martin
The Supreme Court tied 4-4 on Tuesday in what is considered a major yet unexpected victory for public union supporters.
The Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is a case that was brought before the Supreme Court by California public school teachers who opted out of joining a union and rejected paying the union fees. It was initially argued in the Supreme Court in January. It was expected that the court’s conservative justices, including the late Justice Antonin Scalia, had a 5-4 majority at the time.
The conservative majority vote would have decided that forcing people to support unions violated their First Amendment rights. The victory would have also overturned a 1977 precedent says that, under California law, public employees could pay a “fair-share service fee” in exchange for joining a union. The non-union fees are typically equal to union membership fees.
The case addressed whether or not workers who opted out of unions should continue to pay for union activities – benefits and wage negotiations.
However, Scalia’s death on Feb. 13 changed the 5-4 majority to an even 4-4.
The Supreme Court voting in the teacher’s favor would have effectively weakened public sector unions by saying those who don’t join a union also don’t need to pay the “fair share service fee.”
South Carolina is a right-to-work state, which means employees are not required to join a union. South Carolina's right to work law also makes it unlawful for an employer to make an employee pay any fees, dues, assessments or other charges or sums of money to a person or organization.
The 4-4 ruling in the Supreme Court means no new precedent was set and that the appeals court upheld the original 1977 Supreme Court decision.