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Split U.S. Supreme Court rejects conservative challenge to union fees

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(Reuters) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday split 4-4 on a conservative legal challenge to a vital source of funds for organized labor, affirming a lower-court ruling that allowed California to force non-union workers to pay fees to public-employee unions.

The court, shorthanded after the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and evenly divided with four liberal and four conservative members, left intact a 1977 legal precedent that allowed such fees, which add up to millions of dollars a year for unions.

The court's action came in a lawsuit brought by a group of non-union public school teachers from California who objected to paying fees to the California Teachers Association union. A California law requires non-union workers to pay fees to public-sector unions representing workers such as police, firefighters and teachers to fund collective bargaining efforts.