This is very good news for unionized workers who benefit from collective bargaining.
The Supreme Court announced a tie vote today in what labor law experts had called a “life-or-death” case for public employee unions.
The split decision preserves a long-standing rule that requires about half of the nation’s teachers, transit workers and other public employees to pay a “fair share fee” to support their union.
The tie vote will come as a relief to union officials who feared the conservative court was on the brink of striking down the pro-union laws that authorized these fees.
But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the court without a majority to rule on the issue.
It’s also the strongest sign yet that the court’s conservatives cannot muster a majority to rule in their favor. At the oral argument in December, it looked as though the mandatory union dues would be struck down.
There are some union members who oppose fair share fees because they don’t like their benefits negotiated by their unions; not all objectors do so on free speech grounds. But the collective bargaining power comes from the collective. So, ultimately, the better way to address those disagreements is to campaign for better union representatives, not to dilute the power of the union.
In any case, this is a very important decision for working people, both those already in unions and those who need them. Unions are dwindling across the nation, and if there is a hope for more working people to unionize, it was contingent on this decision.