Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday the split decision to uphold mandatory union dues shows the U.S. Supreme Court needs a new justice who isn’t conservative to protect against the “extreme right wing.”
Late Justice Antonin Scalia was believed to be the deciding vote against required union payments. He died Feb. 13 after the case was heard, leaving the court to a four-four decision. The split defaulted the decision to the lower-court, which ruled in favor of mandatory union dues, but the teachers and their lawyers have already expressed interest in retrying the case.
“The extreme right wing is just one conservative Supreme Court justice away from dismantling the rights of public sector unions to organize and collectively bargain on behalf of all of the workers they are legally bound to represent,” Sanders said in a statement. “From Wisconsin to California, the extreme right wing has been waging a war to dismantle unions all over this country.”
Rebecca Friedrichs and nine other teachers say their fight is actually about gaining rights for workers. They say the California Teachers Association (CTA) was violating their right to free speech by requiring union dues. Friedrichs has said her union has often fought for political ends the likes of which she fundamentally disagrees. She doesn’t want to end unions but wants to give workers a choice.
The CTA has said 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.
If the Supreme Court agrees to rehear the case and rules in favor of Friedrichs it could upend decades of established law. Teachers are technically public sector employees, so such a decision could 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.
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