U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court splits 4-4 in challenge to mandatory union dues for public employees

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The U.S. Supreme Court had appeared ready to deal a blow to public unions during January oral arguments in a challenge to mandatory union contributions by public employees. But the court delivered something of a victory to the unions when it split 4-4 on Tuesday in the First Amendment challenge brought by nonunion public school teachers in California.

The split (PDF) in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association leaves in place a ruling (PDF) by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the mandatory dues.

USA Today’s coverage of the split begins, “Conservatives bent on crippling the power of public employee unions lost their best opportunity in years Tuesday when the Supreme Court deadlocked” in Friedrichs.

During oral arguments in January, the court appeared to side with the teachers and their First Amendment challenge. Among those who appeared to support the teachers was Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death has left the court split on the issue.

The teachers had asked the court to overturn the 1977 decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which says public employees may be required to pay mandatory fees to unions for collective bargaining, but not for political or ideological activity.

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