Supreme Court Deadlocks On Key Union Vote

Date: March 29, 2016

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Court’s 4-4 Decision Leaves Compulsory Union Dues In Place

On Tuesday the Supreme Court issued its second 4-4 decision following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The ruling came in a case closely-watched by business groups, including NFIB, involving compulsory union dues. The Washington Post reports that the case, Friedrichs v. the California Teachers
Association 
, involved “a group of California teachers who claim their free speech rights are violated when they are forced to pay dues to the state’s teachers union.” During oral arguments in the case back in January, “the court’s conservatives appeared ready to junk a decades-old precedent” set in the 1977 decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that enables unions to gather a so-called “agency fee” even “from nonmembers to support collective-bargaining activities for members and nonmembers alike.” This case had been considered “the most vital” case before the Supreme Court this year for organized labor, and a key decision before the 2016 elections. Although the case only applies to public-employee unions, not private workers, the Post says such unions are currently “the strongest segment of an organized labor movement that is increasingly tied to the Democratic Party.” The Wall Street Journal reports that in its decision, the Supreme Court gave no details over its vote, simply issuing a one-line opinion stating that the lower-court ruling stands due to a divided court, but that it was nearly certain the court was split upon conservative and liberal lines, underscoring the importance of how Justice Scalia’s vacant seat is filled.

What This Means For Small Businesses

Today’s Supreme Court ruling is damaging to small businesses across the US, as it enables public unions by protecting their key source of revenue. NFIB previously commented on the case, pointing out that it affects small businesses because strong public unions “directly impact” their tax bills “and because of the power public employee labor unions hold in state capitals across the country.” Over the years, small businesses have suffered while “well-funded public unions successfully elect legislator after legislator, who are then beholden to labor interests, and who inevitably return the favor by supporting generous benefit packages to the unions.” The Supreme Court had a chance to break this cycle with the Freidrichs case, but sadly chose to uphold the status quo instead.

Additional Reading

FOX News, CNBC, and USA Today were among the additional outlets covering the court’s decision.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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