There is a reason why the US Supreme Court is supposed to have an odd number of justices, nine specifically, and the absence of one gave a major victory to unions Tuesday.

A 4 to 4 deadlock enabled public-sector unions to continue to collect fees from workers who choose not to join the union or pay for collective bargaining activities. A wealthy right-wing group had asked lower courts to rule against its clients, who were challenging the mandatory fee-collecting rights of unions, so the case would quickly go to the Supreme Court.

The group was anticipating a 5 to 4 victory with the traditionally anti-union Justice Antonin Scalia joining the majority. Justice Scalia died last month, and with the 4 to 4 tie vote causing the decision to revert back to the last court to take the case, the strategy of requesting courts to rule for the unions backfired.

Workers who benefit from union activities, including gains won in collective bargaining, should not get a free ride by declining to pay dues or fees. Gains won by unions not only benefit all members they benefit non-union workers, as seen through pay raises, holidays and benefits gained through the decades.

The union-busting groups that brought this and other court cases will be back, however. In the meantime, Senate Republicans' petulant refusal to do their job and give a hearing to President Obama's Supreme Court nominee assures other tie votes, for good or ill.