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The irony of it all… After a year of union hand wringing, soul searching and bracing for a body blow, the Supreme Court unexpectedly and abruptly handed us a reprieve. A month after Judge Scalia’s death and by virtue of a tie vote, the Supremes upheld the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision  to reject  Friedrichs v. CTA. Public unions in 25 states , including California, breathed a collective sigh of relief.  At least for now, we can continue collecting agency or “fair share” fees from nonmembers.

Make no mistake though…this relief may be only temporary.  Last month  President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat, but leading Republicans have stated their intention to withhold consent on any nominee until the next president takes office. Depending on the outcome of the November election, the Court will swing pro- or anti- union. Democratic President Clinton or Sanders would undoubtedly nominate a more liberal judge, a Republican President definitely not. The Center for Individual Rights (CIR), who represents Rebecca Friedrichs, has already filed a petition for rehearing her case. They reason that a tie vote does not settle a legal question, but only reserves it for a future case. If not the Friedrichs case, then another clone will come before the Court in the next few years.

We seem to be heading for a tipping point in history as far as union health and survival. Will the erosion of unions accelerate with a more conservative Court, or will State Legislatures and Congress create laws that ensure healthy employee environments and a resurgent middle class? California’s new $15 minimum wage act is a good start. Let’s hope that the ball keeps rolling in that direction.