When the right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia’s failed heart ended his life it also ended any chance that the Supreme Court would have an anti-union majority in the Friedrichs case.
Today the Court announced their 4-4 split decision. A split decision preserves agency fees for public employee unions.
The suit, funded by wealthy union-haters, was intended to deny teachers and other public employee unions the right to collect dues, or an equivalent fee from those who didn’t want to join.
If Friedrichs went the other way, a free ride would be the law of the land.
Some employees would receive all the benefits of a union contract without having to pay for the work others did to bargain it. Eventually, the union-bashers figured, it would starve the union.
Folks, frustrated by the corruption, ineptness and deafness of much of what passes for union leadership these days, suggested that perhaps a union loss in Friedrichs would actually be a good thing. It might be just what the unions needed to get back to organizing and genuine collective bargaining.
It would force them to earn the right to represent the employees.
But I don’t think so.
A win for Friedrichs may well have destroyed what is left of public employee unions in a country with the lowest unionized workforce in the industrialized world.
Scalia’s failed heart may have sided with the unions and preserved fair share.
But it won’t bring democracy to public employee unions.
That will be up to the members.