Scalia’s death means teachers may get another swing at union dues

By Bob Unruh

Burning money

The 4-4 ideological split in the U.S. Supreme Court, created by the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a stalwart of the Constitution on the court for decades, means teachers in California may get another chance to eliminate mandatory union dues.

Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a public-interest legal team that brought the case on behalf of the educators who objected to mandatory funding of union activities they described as political, said his organization will file a petition for rehearing.

“With the death of Justice Scalia, this outcome was not unexpected,” he said. “We believe this case is too significant to let a split decision stand and we will file a petition for rehearing with the Supreme Court.”

He explained, in a telephone conference call, that the in previous instances of a 4-4 split during a court vacancy, the is retained for a later rehearing after the ninth justice has been sworn in.

He declined to comment on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat.

The Senate, citing election-year precedent, has said it will wait until after voters have elected the person they want to make the nomination.

Obama and his supporters repeatedly have demanded action now, claiming the Constitution requires the Senate to hold hearings on a nominee, even though it doesn’t.

“Normally what we would expect to happen here is [for the court] to hold on to the petition until a new justice is confirmed,” Pell said.

He said that since 1945, dozens of cases have been handled that way.

See what American education has become, in “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.”

Pending in the case are the laws of 23 states, and the tie vote, which was announced in a one-sentence statement from the court that didn’t even include the names of the justices for or against, doesn’t set a precedent; it only leaves the lower court ruling standing.

At issue are the “agency fees” still required of public sector employees even after they opt out of support for the unions’ almost exclusively progressive agenda.

Nine California teachers challenged the requirement because they object to paying for what they call the political side of the collective bargaining work.

They claim that such of their funds violates the First Amendment.

The case, Friedrichs v. California Teacher’s Association, is over the approximately $650 each teacher in California has to pay the union, despite the fact the union’s political statements and bargaining activities may be in direct violation of any individual teacher’s speech rights.

Supporters of the case explained: “These fees support work on collective bargaining agreements that enshrine policies like teacher tenure, last in-first out layoff rules, and school assignments based on seniority, not need. The plaintiff teachers object to the union’s positions on these political issues and say being forced to fund them as a condition of employment in a public school is unconstitutional.”

Pell said a union “cannot claim to represent the interest of all workers if there is ongoing doubt about the constitutionality of its forcible collection of millions of dollars in dues.”

“Either compulsory dues are an acceptable exception to the First Amendment or they are not. A full court needs to decide this question and we expect this case will be re-heard when a new justice is confirmed,” said Pell.

John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, who filed arguments in support of the teachers, said: “The right to hold a position that is neither yea nor nay carries with it a concomitant right not to be perceived as taking sides. This right is both a speech right and a privacy right.

“As Thomas Jefferson recognized, ‘to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.'”

Under challenge is a 1977 decision by the Supreme Court that public employees can be forced to pay dues to unions for bargaining.

However, the Rutherford Institute noted, “the court also established that the First Amendment forbids the union from using dues from an unconsenting public employee to support political causes the employee objects to.”

The teachers objected to being forced to “financially support unions engaged in quintessentially political activities or requiring them to take affirmative steps to withhold support from the unions.”

Fox News reported that the present decision is a “big win” for unions.

But the report cited the potential for a further review.

“Labor officials worried the potential loss of tens of millions of dollars in fees would reduce their power to bargain for higher wages and benefits for government employees.”

It continued: “The high court had raised doubts about the viability of the 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, but it stopped short of overturning it in two recent cases. In Abood, the court said public workers who choose not to join a union can be required to pay for bargaining costs if the fees don’t go toward political purposes.”

At Scotusblog, an analysis said the ruling left “nothing settled definitely.”

A rehearing request, due within 25 days, would need the votes of five justices.

The blog said, “If the court were to decide not to rehear the Friedrichs case, another option for confronting the same agency fee question would be in a different case that had worked its way through lower courts, and reached the justices after there was a full bench.”

See what American education has become, in “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.”

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