While the country mourns the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and sends condolences to his family, I find it remarkable that the death of this one man will probably have a huge effect on our country and our public sector unions. For union leaders, they are probably ecstatic today as the probable result of the Friedrichs case that would have denied public unions automatic dues or agency fees from members has now shifted considerably.
For all of those UFT members who were looking forward to not having to pay over $1,300 in annual UFT dues or an agency fee of a little bit less, it looks like fate has just been very unkind. Free riding will more than likely have to wait for at least a year and maybe much longer as Friedrichs now looks like a win for the unions because of Scalia's passing.
Scalia was a leading conservative voice for the Court's 5-4 right wing majority. The balance on the Court would easily be shifted now if Obama nominated and the Senate confirmed a more liberal judge. It is not very surprising that the Republicans in the US Senate do not want to consider any new justice nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Scalia.
Even if Republicans have their way and delay the appointment of a new justice until after the election, for now the Supreme Court is evenly divided. There is a 4-4 split between conservative and liberal justices that probably will last until we have a new president. It would take a five justice majority to overturn the lower court decision that upheld a 1977 precedent setting Abood decision. Therefore, it looks as though the Abood decision will stand for at least this year and public sector unions such as the UFT will be able to continue to collect fees from non-members.
Friedrichs appears to be dead for now although one can never take a result of a court case for granted and another justice could die also.
I can only imagine the elation being felt this morning by leaders of the UFT, AFT, NYSUT and other public sector unions. Whether or not they deserve this unexpected positive twist of fate I leave up to you.
I am somewhat relieved that the union will now probably continue as it is but still more than a little concerned that our arrogant leaders can move ahead misrepresenting us without consequences.