After oral argument on January 11, almost all commentators agreed that the Supreme Court was likely to overturn the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (Friedrichs) and hold that public sector unions cannot compel agency fees from its bargaining unit members. However, Justice Scalia’s death changed everything. Today, the Supreme Court issued a terse one-sentence decision stating, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” In other words, it was a tie 4-4 vote. That means the underlying decision stands.
So does this decision require California public employers to do anything different? No. The decision means that the status quo remains and that agency fee agreements with unions continue to be lawful and must be honored.