By Lindia DePillis
A grave threat to public sector unions may have been averted – for now.
Justice Antonin Scalia died at a very high-stakes time in the Supreme Court’s docket.
In some of those cases, Scalia may not be the deciding vote. But according to SCOTUSblog, the most likely case to be immediately affected is Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association, the case creating an existential crisis among public sector unions, which now might breath a sigh of relief — for now.
The case concerns the ability of public sector unions to collect “agency fees” from workers who did not wish to pay for the union’s political activities. Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher in California, had argued that being forced to do so was a violation of her free speech. If the Supreme Court agreed, workers would be free to not pay for the negotiation and administration of the contract that covers them, which could drain the union’s financial resources.
Now, unions and their allies had originally taken some solace in the idea that Scalia had previously shown concern about the “free rider” problem created when workers don’t have to pay for services the union is obligated to provide. But his line of questioning in oral argument let most of the air out of that bubble of hope, and unions have been bracing for a 5-4 decision making the public sector essentially “right to work” nationwide.