The Supreme Court's 4-4 ruling on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was both expected (in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia's death) and disappointing–it means that public employee unions can continue to collect mandatory dues from people who opt not to belong to these unions.
The justices could have scheduled a rehearing next term, but instead they will allow a ruling by the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in place. USA Today notes:
That was a major victory for the unions and the court's four liberal justices following Justice Antonin Scalia's death last month. During oral argument in January, it had appeared almost certain that the court would strike down the requirement in 23 states that teachers and government workers contribute to the cost of collective bargaining, even if they disagree with their unions' demands.
The result would have been the demise of a nearly 40-year-old Supreme Court precedent that allows unions to impose such requirements on non-members. It would have made it harder for unions representing teachers, police and firefighters, and other government workers to maintain their power by affecting their pocketbooks.
This was not a victory for free speech and individual liberty. National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke calls it a victory for "forced speech" because people who disagree with union positions must still pay dues. Cooke notes how "downright Orwellian" pro-union groups sound when describing the case. As an example, he quotes this from the Washington Post report on the decision in which a woman called Lily Eskelsen Garcia is quoted. Cooke writes:
Note Lily Eskelsen García’s language here: “The U.S. Supreme Court,” she alleges, “rejected a political ploy to silence public employees like teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty and other educators to work together to shape their profession.” Really? Because from where I’m sitting it looks as if the Court declined to give those “teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty and other educators” an opportunity to choose with whom they wish to associate and how.
As an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute explains that now it is up to state legislatures (though certainly the California teachers can't expect relief from their state legislature) to deliver people from this forced speech:
“With a divided court, thousands of public servants around the nation must still financially assist a government union that they disagree with,” said Trey Kovacs, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian group. “Now it is up to state legislatures to provide public employees with the freedom to choose whether or not to pay for union representation.”