Without the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a 4-4 tie on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case was predictable. While unions hail the tie vote as a victory and reformers bemoan a missed opportunity, the real question that is avoided by this non-decision is how do rank-and-file teachers feel about the chance to withhold their dues from the union?

We are told most teachers approve of their union. However, the teachers’ support for the union’s activity on  teachers’ behalf would be fairly tested if the individual teachers would be given the chance to say whether they want to voluntarily pay union dues.

As I noted in a previous column, when the state of Michigan allowed teachers to opt out of the union the Michigan Education Association lost thousands of members. The CTA has been preparing for this possibility, issuing a report titled: Not if but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.

If the court sided with teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, who opposes mandatory union dues, voluntary union dues could continue. If the union does what the members want they will maintain financial support from teachers.

Justice Scalia was the deciding vote in this labor case, in which some teachers challenged the mandated agency fees they had to pay to the teachers’ union. Those who listened to the oral arguments believed Scalia would side with Friedrichs and against the unions. However, with the 4-4 tie vote of the justices following Scalia’s death, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal decision upholding the union position stands.

The decision keeps the CTA as a powerful influence over Sacramento policy and politics. CTA will have the resources to support or oppose candidates and ballot measures. The decision could also have an indirect effect on other political issues.

Recall that when former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio announced that they would not pursue their pension reform initiative this year but wait until 2018, they stated in a release: “By then we will know the outcome of a key court case that might limit the public employee unions’ capacity to spend ‘unlimited’ resources against pension reform.”

They know the decision now. For these pension reformers, its back to the drawing board—or should we say the chalkboard.