A 4-4 tie on the Supreme Court resulted in a major victory for public sector unions on Tuesday. The case in question, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, concerned fees paid by non-union teachers.
"This decision is a victory for educators and all public employees, but most importantly a victory for the millions of students of California and across the U.S," California Teachers Association President Eric Heins said in a press statement. "By having the ability to join together to make our voices heard on issues that affect all of us such as a quality, safe and healthy schools for our kids, we ensure that our public schools remain strong and our students get the quality public education they need and deserve."
In California and more than 20 other states, public employees who opt not to join a union must pay a "fair share service fee" to cover negotiating costs. Of the 325,000 public school teachers in California, only nine percent are not in the union.
Without the fee for non-union members, workers might not be motivated to join the union, which in turn might possibly cause unions to lose their funds and weaken their collective bargaining advantages.
After an appeals court upheld the fee requirement for non-union members, the Supreme Court seemed certain to rule against the union mandate. But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, resulted in split vote that upheld the ruling from the appeals court.
President Obama recently nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, but many Republicans in the Senate opposed the appointment. Without a ninth judge, these 4-4 split decisions could become common occurrence.
"California educators call on all lawmakers to uphold their constitutional responsibilities and keep moving the nomination process through Congress," Heins said in the press release. "The time to act is now. It's time for those with their own agenda to stop playing games with the Supreme Court."
With the current makeup of the Supreme Court, experts expect that split rulings for upcoming cases will likely result in fewer abortion clinics in Texas (Whole Woman's Health v. Cole) and protected overtime compensation for certain workers (Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo). The president will also likely no longer be able to protect four million undocumented immigrants from deportation (United States v. Texas).
Cover image via Mark Wilson / Getty Images.