High court will hear forced union fees chal­lenge sup­ported by state teach­ers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - Staff Re­port

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday an­nounced it will hear Janus v. AFSCME, a po­ten­tial land­mark la­bor case pre­sent­ing a First Amend­ment chal­lenge to manda­tory union fees in the pub­lic sec­tor.

“To­day, thou­sands of Penn­syl­va­ni­ans work­ing in the pub­lic sec­tor face an un­just ul­ti­ma­tum: Pay the union or lose your job,” com­mented Nathan McGrath, vice pres­i­dent and chief lit­i­ga­tion coun­sel for the Fair­ness Cen­ter. “But the Court could soon free them from this work­place co­er­cion by rul­ing in Janus’ fa­vor.”

Janus v. AFSCME seeks to over­turn the 40-yearold rul­ing in Abood v. Detroit Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, which al­lows pub­lic sec­tor unions to force pub­lic em­ploy­ees to pay the union as a con­di­tion of em­ploy­ment. In re­cent years, the Court has sug­gested more than once that the un­der­pin­nings of Abood may be ripe for chal­lenge.

This Jan­uary, four Penn­syl­va­nia school­teach­ers filed a sim­i­lar case, Hart­nett v. PSEA, in fed­eral court. Greg Hart­nett of Homer-Cen­ter School Dis­trict, El­iz­a­beth Galaska of Twin Val­ley School Dis­trict, and Rob Brough and John Cress of Ell­wood City Area School Dis­trict sued the Penn­syl­va­nia State Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and their lo­cal unions to end com­pul­sory union fees as a re­quire­ment of their jobs.

These teach­ers and the Fair­ness Cen­ter joined an Am­i­cus Brief in July urg­ing the High Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME. The Fair­ness Cen­ter along with staff at­tor­neys pro­vided by the Na­tional Right to Work Le­gal De­fense Foun­da­tion rep­re­sent Hart­nett and his fel­low teacher plain­tiffs.

“My con­sti­tu­tional rights do not end when I set foot in the class­room,” com­mented Hart­nett, an art teacher and fa­ther of five. “I should not be forced to fund a pri­vate, po­lit­i­cally-ac­tive or­ga­ni­za­tion just to do what I love. A fa­vor­able Supreme Court rul­ing in Janus would likely free me—and thou­sands of other Penn­syl­va­nia school­teach­ers— from this union bul­ly­ing.”

“If we trust teach­ers to ed­u­cate our kids, we should also trust them to de­cide whether or not to fund a union,” con­tin­ued McGrath. “This case gives the Supreme Court the op­por­tu­nity to en­sure free speech and free as­so­ci­a­tion rights ap­ply to ev­ery­one.”

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court dead­locked 4-4 in Friedrichs v. Cal­i­for­nia Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, a case which also sought to end com­pul­sory union fees for teach­ers. The tie ef­fec­tively al­lowed union of­fi­cials to con­tinue forc­ing teach­ers to pay unions as a con­di­tion of em­ploy­ment.

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