Over the past months, Republicans have done their darndest to keep the Supreme Court from being a full nine-member entity. Fortunately the Court did not have any high-profile cases during that time, and thus Republicans were able to feel proud that their blatant obstruction had no serious repercussions.
All that just changed, however.
In the first high-profile case since the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court split 4-4 on a ruling involving a challenge to fees collected by public employee unions, a ruling that was seen as having gone down on ideological lines. The case had been seen by many Republicans as being a prime opportunity to weaken the power of unions, something the party had spent the better part of four decades slowly chipping away at.
However, with the passing of Justice Scalia and yesterday’s ruling, the case reverts back to the decision of the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals which ruled in favor of the unions’ ability to collect the fees.
The case was focused on the requirement of 23 states in which teachers and government workers were made to contribute to the cost of collective bargaining, even if they happened to disagree with their union’s demands. There previously had been a nearly 40-year precedent made by the Supreme Court that allowed unions to impose such requirements on non-members.
Had the court ruled against the unions, it would have put a big dent in their checkbooks and would have affected their power to lobby and impact legislation. Unions representing teachers, policemen and women, firefighters, and government workers all would have been hurt financially had the Supreme Court ruled against them.
The result of the case only impacts states involved directly under the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction, which includes the western states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
It is especially important for the state of California, the nation’s most populous state as well as the state with the most union members. For example, the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) is a state-based affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), which is the largest labor union in the United States. The CTA has approximately 325,000 members and is frequently listed as one of the top spenders in California.
By allowing unions like the CTA to continue to collect fees, one can see how easily even just a few extra dollars a year by each member can translate into millions of dollars statewide that can be used for political gain.
At this point in time, there’s no way to determine how Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland would have ruled on this case. However, by not even refusing to consider him, Republicans have ensured that the Supreme Court will be deadlocked for the foreseeable future. Yesterday’s ruling might be the first to go against their interests but it certainly won’t be their last.
All in the name of sticking it to the man in the White House.