In lieu of flowers, send union dues…

Mar 30, 2016

Yesterday labor unions declared a “major victory for organized labor” with the unsurprising 4-4 tied decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case.

The California Teachers Association boasted that, “the decision recognizes that stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights in the workplace is a step in the wrong direction.”

As one columnist responded to CTA’s statement: “Ummmm, no.”

“First, the case didn’t involve stripping collective-bargaining rights; it involved First Amendment rights.  Had Rebecca Friedrichs won, workers would still be able to organize to bargain collectively…respecting First Amendment rights for workers would not mean an end to unions — as evidenced by the fact that union membership increased in both Indiana and Oklahoma after those states enacted right-to-work laws, which prohibit workers from being fired for refusing to pay “fair share” fees (partial dues required to be paid by employees who choose not to join a union).

Second, the decision didn’t recognize anything, other than the lack of a fifth vote for either side.  As a matter of law, the decision has precisely zero precedential value.”                

So the tie simply means the question of whether it is a violation of the constitutional rights of public employees to be forced to pay union dues or fees for representation they do not want remains unresolved.  It will likely be decided another day; until then unions will continue collecting those forcibly extracted dollars from workers and spending them on activities with which many of the workers disagree.

Just over a month after the Court heard oral arguments in the Friedrichs case on January 11, Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly passed away, changing instantly what many constitutional experts and legal pundits assumed would be a precedent-setting 5-4 decision this summer in favor of Rebecca Friedrichs and the other teacher-petitioners.  Virtually every media outlet covering the hearing agreed the attorneys representing the public worker unions were on defense as they were battered by questions from the five conservative Justices, including Scalia.  It appeared all but certain that the union gravy train that has run for decades on forced unionism would end soon.

Scalia’s sudden passing was an instant reprieve for labor unions.

The attorneys representing Rebecca Friedrichs and the other teachers plan to file a motion for rehearing so that the full Court, including its new Justice, can hear and decide the case.  The timing of a rehearing depends on whether a new Justice is confirmed by the current president or his successor.

So rather than a victory it is perhaps more like a temporary stay of execution.  Of course, a full pardon could be granted, depending on who ends up replacing Scalia on the Court.