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Mixed Reactions In California To Supreme Court Union Fee Ruling

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Lesa Curtis of Westchester, N.Y., right, who is pro agency fees and a former president of her union, rallies outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, as the court heard arguments in the 'Friedrichs v. CTA' case.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The California Teachers Association says it’s relieved the U.S. Supreme Court has handed it a victory in a case that threatened the union’s financial and political future.

The justices split 4-4 in the “Friedrichs”case Tuesday, leaving a lower court ruling that sided with the union intact.

“Of course, I did breathe a sigh of relief,“ says CTA President Eric Heins, adding he's “happy“ that “unknown that’s been hanging out there has – at least for now – been put to rest.”

The teachers who brought the suit say they’ll ask the Supreme Court to rehear the case once the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia is filled. Many legal observers believe Justice Scalia would have cast the tiebreaking vote in this case against the CTA.

“(Justice Scalia's death) really did change things for our case,“ says Rebecca Friedrichs, the Orange County elementary school teacher who's one of nine plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit.

“We’re still willing to argue our case again in front of whatever nine justices are on the court,“ Friedrichs added. “We feel very confident because the merits of our case are strong.“

Heins acknowledges the CTA will have more money available for political campaigns this fall as a result.

“If the ruling had been adverse, then it obviously would have impacted what resources we’d have had available,“ he says. “That’s kind of a given. But (with Tuesday's ruling) that’s not the case.”

The suit questioned whether teachers who choose not to be CTA members must still pay union fees because they benefit from collective bargaining.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio