The U.S. Supreme Court handed organized labor a huge victory Tuesday by coming down to a split decision in the case to end mandatory union dues.
Rebecca Friedrichs and nine other teachers fought unions over mandatory dues all the way to the highest court. They alleged the California Teachers Association (CTA) was violating her right to free speech by requiring union dues. Lawyers made their case Jan. 11, but now the court has come to a four to four split, reports The New York Times.
With the court split, the decision defaults to the lower-court, which ruled in favor of mandatory union dues. Justice Antonin Scalia was believed to be the deciding vote against required union payments, but he died Feb. 13 after the case was heard.
“With the death of Justice Scalia, this outcome was not unexpected,” Lawyer Terry Pell said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We believe this case is too significant to let a split decision stand and we will file a petition for re-hearing with the Supreme Court.”
Pell serves as president of the Center for Individual Rights which helped bring the case to the Supreme Court.
For Friedrichs and the other teachers, the fight is not quite over. The teachers and their lawyers have already expressed interest in retrying the case, but it’s no guarantee the justices will agree to take it up again.
Friedrichs has said her union has often fought for political ends the likes of which she fundamentally disagrees. She learned early on how hard it was to fire bad teachers strictly because of union policies, while members and labor leaders appeared to benefit at the expense of students. She said the goal of the case isn’t to hurt labor unions, but rather provide workers a voice on union policy goals.
The case has the potential to upend decades of established law. Teachers are technically public sector employees, so a decision in favor of Friedrichs could have set a precedent for all government workers. The teachers hoped to reverse 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which allowed unions to require mandatory payments.
The CTA has claimed it’s only fair to require mandatory union payments. Unions that get voted in as the exclusive representative for a workplace are required by law to represent all the workers regardless of whether they pay dues.
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