Court's Final Decision is Probably Not the Last Word

March 30, 2016

The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it had reached no decision on mandatory union fees being required of nonunion public sector workers, meaning that the judgment of the court below was affirmed.

The 40-year old Supreme Court precedent (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education) that allows unions to require government workers in 23 states to contribute to the cost of collective bargaining, even if they are non-union members, stands.

Rather than seeking to reschedule the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, for their next term, the justices simply announced they were tied 4-4 — a verdict which leaves intact the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upholding the fee collections.

The court's decision was a significant victory for public-sector unions, which had feared that losing the power to collect the dues in the 23 states where it’s allowed would cripple their political activities and diminish their memberships.

The 4/4 Supreme Court decision will not slow the decades long campaign by conservative groups who seek to limit unions that represent public employees. The split ruling raises the stakes in the ongoing SCOTUS nomination fight, since the next justice could hold the swing vote on subsequent cases relating to union issues.