As I write this, I have a great big smile on my face. The Supreme Court handed down a one sentence judgement in the case Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. This was a case where a handful of teachers sued the teachers’ union, claiming that it violated their rights to have to pay the union an agency fee. But maybe I should back up for readers who are not so up on all this union business.
People cannot be forced to join a union just to have a job. This is considered coercive. If only our judicial system were so protective of workers’ rights when it comes to the coercion that employers inflict on them. But the law is the law. However, these workers who think that unions are bad still have to pay what’s called an “agency fee.” This is the money that it costs the union to do the collective bargaining that gets the workers higher compensation packages.
Friedrichs v California Teachers Association was designed to destroy even this requirement that employees pay the agency fee. In the short term, it would mean that the workers would get the service for free. But in the longer term, it would mean that the unions would be destroyed. This latter effect was what the plaintiffs were looking for all along. So the case went before the moderate Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was struck down. This was expected. The whole point was to get this in front of the Supreme Court where the conservative justices would show as they always do that they are are just conservative hacks.
The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case on 11 January 2016. It was certain that it would overrule the Ninth Circuit Court. But then Justice Antonin Scalia did one of the best things in all his career: he died.
Even though he was there for oral arguments of Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, it doesn’t matter. The rules are that if he isn’t there for the final decision, he isn’t there. It appears that despite all of its problems, at least the Supreme Court follows its own rules. If this had been up to the US Senate, the Republicans would have said, “Scalia would have voted with the conservatives, so it’s a 5-4 decision and the Night Circuit is overruled!” But that didn’t happen.
The Supreme Court released a single sentence opinion (pdf):
Oh Scalia, Scalia, Scalia! Now that you are dead, we salute you!
Of course, it isn’t all good news. There are a number of other cases where the lower court decided something horrible. This is why we need a moderate to be put on the court. Let’s face it: we aren’t going to get a liberal. But at least we can get someone who isn’t a reflexive partisan. Having two of those on the Supreme Court is two too many.
But it’s nice to think nicely of Scalia for a change. It isn’t that he was always wrong. His dissent in Maryland v King was bold and inspiring. I’m glad he was dead for Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, because he certainly would have ruled in his usual talk radio informed way.