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