So, the system in which union dues are collected from all employees remains in place. By a tie, 4-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court fails to reach a consensus opinion. That means the lower court’s opinions stand. In this case, that means unions win because most lower courts upheld the long-standing custom of deducting union dues even from those persons who are not members. See CBS news report. These fees from non-members may not be used for political activity.

The system of collecting dues from non-members exists in the 23 states and the District of Columbia which allow public sector unions. The theory is that non-members would get a “free ride” if they paid nothing. The non-members would get the benefit of a collective bargaining agreement but pay nothing for it.

I belonged to a union a few years ago. We did sometimes refer to the non-members in a semi-friendly way as “free-loaders.” They were getting the benefit of concessions won by the union without paying anything to the union. Unfortunately for some, if Justice Scalia were still alive, he surely would have voted to abolish the fees. Indeed, he surely expressed his opposition to these fees before his death. But, under the internal rules of the U.S. Supreme Court, his opinion does not count if he is not around when the final decision is issued.

This result also indicates what happens when a seat on the Supreme Court remains unfilled. The business of the country just does not get done. A tremendous amount of work by many people goes into one appeal to the Supreme Court. All that work is for naught when the final tally is 4-4.