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Maine Education Association Cheers Supreme Court Union Ruling

Public-sector unions, such as the Maine Education Association, can still collect fair-share dues from non-union members thanks to a split-decision ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. (MEA)
Public-sector unions, such as the Maine Education Association, can still collect fair-share dues from non-union members thanks to a split-decision ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. (MEA)
March 31, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine – It's a case that has major impact on public sector unions across the nation, and the Maine Education Association (MEA) is among those applauding the result.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a split decision on Tuesday in a case that had challenged public-sector unions' rights to collect what are known as "fair-share" dues from non-union members, to pay for the cost of collective bargaining.

While a rehearing of the case is still possible, MEA Executive Director Rob Walker said the decision is a big victory for public employees' union rights.

"This ruling is important because it is a stepping stone to more attacks on the public-sector unions," said Walker. "But it has, financially, very little effect on us one way or the other, because we have very few fee-payers."

The case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, was brought to the Supreme Court by a libertarian group, the Center for Individual Rights, which argued that First Amendment rights are violated by having to pay a union if the worker doesn't want to join.

The 4-4 Supreme Court vote happened as a result of the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Walker pointed out that under the high court's rules, any decision ending in a tie reverts back to the original decision - which, in this case, favored public-sector unions.

"You know, I don't think we were depending on Scalia for a favorable vote for this one," he noted. "So, we might have dodged a bullet with Scalia's death."

Walker added the ruling will have a bigger financial impact for the other unions that represent state workers in Maine. Nationwide, about 20 states now require public-sector workers to help fund the unions that represent them.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME