It’s a good thing for labor unions that Antonin Scalia died earlier this year, Tom Perez, President Obama’s Labor Secretary, said on Thursday.
Perez, a progressive whom Hillary Clinton considered choosing as her running mate, was answering questions during a session at the Washington Ideas Forum when he was asked about strategies to increase labor union membership.
“Well, I think you have all these — there’s an unmitigated assault on labor unions across a number of states and there was a case that went before the Supreme Court recently, and frankly if Justice Scalia had not passed away it would have really made it very difficult for public sector labor unions to organize and that would have been one step in a very transparent and well-choreographed set of objectives from folks on the far right to eviscerate the labor movement,” Perez told the audience.
Scalia, a conservative, died on Feb. 13, 2016 at the age of 79. His seat has not been filled, though President Obama has nominated appeals court justice Merrick Garland.
Perez was likely referring to a Supreme Court case that deadlocked 4-4 in March.
The justices in that case weighed whether the California Teachers Association, a public employee union, was allowed to deduct union dues from nonmember teachers to help cover the expenses of collective bargaining. The tie meant that an appeals court’s decision in the case was upheld. That decision favored the union. Scalia likely would have voted against the union, most court watchers believe.