Until the sudden death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, unions were bracing for an all-but-certain 5-4 ruling against them in Freidrichs v. California Teachers Association. Scalia, a reliable conservative on the court, seemed likely to vote to get rid of public-sector “fair share” fees, which require nonmembers pay their union a percentage of full dues for negotiation and representation costs.
The ruling would have decimated unions that represent state and local workers, effectively making all of those workplaces “right to work.” A 4-4 split is likely without Scalia, and the legality of public-sector fair share fees would be upheld.
“Conservatives had a grand plan to decimate unions. If Justice Antonin Scalia hadn’t died in his sleep, they almost certainly would have pulled it off,” wrote Moshe Marvit for In These Times.
But attacks on labor will continue, warns Charlotte Garden for The Atlantic.
“Cases with the potential to chip away at organized labor will continue to reach the courts in significant numbers no matter what, and they will proliferate if the next justice is a Republican appointee,” wrote Garden. “More important, states may still adopt ‘right-to-work’ laws banning mandatory union fees, as the West Virginia legislature voted to do last week, or to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees altogether.”
President Obama said he will nominate a replacement for Scalia, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the chamber will not confirm any nominee until after the November election.