Politics

Scalia’s Passing Results In Plaintiff Calling For Retrial Of Landmark Union Case

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A lawyer representing Rebecca Friedrichs is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to retry her case against mandatory union dues in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia passing away, according to reports Wednesday.

Friedrichs and nine other California teachers argued Jan. 11 that mandatory union payments violate their right to free-speech. Scalia was believed to be the deciding vote against required dues but he passed away Feb. 13 leaving the court split. Lawyer Terry Pell notes that Friedrichs hopes the court will rehear their case once they picked a replacement justice.

“She is obviously sad about Justice Scalia’s passing and is concerned about the effect that has on the case,” Pell told The Daily Signal. “So I think she fully recognizes the need to press forward and get a full rehearing in order to get an authoritative decision from the court.”

Pell serves as president of the Center for Individual Rights which is among a handful of groups helping the teachers. The California Teachers Association (CTA) represents the teachers and argues mandatory union dues help prevent free-riders. Unions are required to represent all workers once they are voted in as the exclusive representative so supporters argue its only fair they all pay dues.

The teachers countered the argument by noting they didn’t want what the union was fighting for because it allegedly benefited teachers at the expense of students. The teachers hope to reverse the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education which has allowed unions to require mandatory payments. The case addressed the free-speech issue by allowing workers to opt-out of funding political activities.

Teachers are technically public-sector employees so a decision in favor of Friedrichs could set a precedent for all government workers. President Barack Obama is now responsible for appointing a replacement justice. The U.S. Senate must approve the replacement but the Republican majority is threatening to block any appointments until after Obama leaves office in a year.

The president is likely to appoint a liberal leaning justice making a decision in favor of the union more likely. Nevertheless without a majority decision the ruling will default to whatever the lower court decided. The lower court upheld mandatory union dues by ruling in favor of the union.

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