Pennsylvania Teachers Unions Ignore Supreme Court Decision and Raise Money | News, Sports, Jobs


A teacher at a Pennsylvania public school who sued a teachers’ union for trying to get him to pay dues when he was no longer a member reached a settlement this fall reaffirming the constitutional rights of public servants who do not want to not subsidize political activism that they do not support.

Until recently, these rights were subject to Commonwealth labor laws, which allow unions to charge non-members. “Fair sharing costs” as a condition of their employment. Pennsylvania law also allows government unions to establish “Maintenance of membership” provisions that prevent public servants from resigning from their union at any time outside of a window of about two weeks after the end of a collective agreement. In practice, this meant that unions could force workers to maintain their membership and continue to pay dues against their will, in some cases for years.

But times are changing thanks to a recent United States Supreme Court ruling and the daunting task of David Perrotti, a teacher at a public school in the Scranton area. he resisted “threatening” letters demanding that he pay union dues despite his resignation from the Abington Heights Education Association (AHEA) on November 20, 2020. Although union officials did not challenge Perrotti’s resignation, they claimed that he owed dues because he missed their window to resign.

A few weeks after his resignation, the Pennsylvania teacher received the first of several “recovery letters” demanding that he pay dues in the amount of $ 722.40 by August 31, 2021. But another date dug a hole in the union’s argument and helps explain why Perrotti secured a settlement that frees him and other government employees from union demands. The collective agreement between the Abington Heights School District, where Perrotti teaches, and AHEA was signed on April 3, 2019.

Unions illegally ignore SCOTUS for money

This matters because it means the union forged the deal several months after the United States Supreme Court struck down union dues and mandatory fees for public sector workers in its June 2018 ruling in the case. Janus v. AFSCME. Apparently, the AHEA, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, decided to ignore the court ruling and force employees to pay union dues and fees anyway. This is not an isolated incident.

Nathan McGrath, president and legal counsel of the Fairness Center, sees a deliberate union strategy to undermine the Janus decision. The fact that the Pennsylvania State Education Association and affiliates like the AHEA inserted equitable sharing fees into contracts after the Supreme Court struck down those same union fees speaks to the need for additional legal pressure at the labor level. ‘State, he explained.

“The Supreme Court settled the issue of non-members paying union dues three years ago, but there is still a lot of work to be done” McGrath said. “Union officials continue to disregard employee rights and use underhanded tactics to get non-members to pay union dues. “

In his majority opinion for the tribunal, Judge Samuel Alito made it clear that unions cannot collect dues from non-union members who are public employees without the “Affirmative consent” of these employees. In other words, the union position is no longer the default position. Under Janus, non-union members must make a conscious decision to pay a union rather than jumping through the hoops to quit their membership or refrain from joining in the first place.

Perrotti, who had been a union member since 2004, never gave his affirmative consent and decided it was high time the Janus ruling was implemented in Pennsylvania. That’s why he hired the Fairness Center last summer to file a federal lawsuit against the AHEA and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest employee union with approximately 180,000 members.

“By threatening to collect dues or union dues” of Perrotti without his consent, the teachers’ unions “deprive” him “From his First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and association”, said the costume. Although Perrotti clearly had the force of federal law on her side, Danielle Acker Susanj, a lawyer who represented Perrotti, notes that unions are not always brought to heel without judicial intervention.

“This is part of the larger trend that we are seeing: threats against unrepresented teachers, who have a lot of other things to fear, only to have the PSEA back down as soon as lawyers get involved” Susanj said in an email. “But teachers should be able to exercise their rights without needing to hire a lawyer in order to fend off threats from the union representing them.”

What the Pennsylvania public service unions really want to avoid is a landmark court ruling that sets a solid precedent while overturning parts of Pennsylvania labor law that do not fit the Janus ruling, added David Osborne, CEO of Americans for Fair Treatment. Unions continuously “attack and retreat” through “Impose unconstitutional policies on officials” but then suddenly “Retirement whenever they are challenged in court”, he observed.

What is the solution ?

The Fairness Center continues to advance cases where it calls on the judiciary to strike down parts of Pennsylvania’s labor law that are unconstitutional. But the problem here is with the underhanded union tactics Osborne highlights. The usual drill is for unions to yell uncle and enter the settlements once it becomes clear that they are on the precipice of a decision that would make Janus fully operational in Pennsylvania.

But there is an alternative to legal action in the form of legislative and political pressure – and the timing here could be ideal. On November 15, the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee held a hearing on several labor reform measures. One of the bills under consideration would end “Maintenance of membership” while another would advise employees of their constitutional rights while waiving equitable compensation requirements.

Susanj, the Fairness Center lawyer who represented Perrotti, told committee members during her testimony that her company has identified at least 20 collective agreements that include fair compensation language signed after the Janus ruling. This meant that the union and the public employer included language they knew to be illegal, she explained.

Steel Valley, East Stroudsburg, City of Jeannette, and New Kensington-Arnold are other examples of school districts with collective agreements that illegally insert fair sharing fees.

“There are public employees in Pennsylvania, including some of our clients, who today work under contracts with apparently unconstitutional provisions.” said Susanj. She also sees the value of a legislative proposal to implement notification requirements so that public employees are fully informed of their First Amendment rights before joining a union.

“Putting aside the problem of public sector union officials and public employers, including illegal language in collective agreements, if employees don’t know their rights, they can’t be expected to know. which provisions are unconstitutional ” she observed during the hearing.

“Teachers don’t know they have a choice”

Cheri Gensel, a teacher at a Monroe County public school, demonstrated how this can be done during her testimony. She described how the PSEA tried to pressure her to change her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2014. The union gave in when it held on, but Gensel still had to pay union dues. which served to support the political agenda of the union. She was finally able to resign from her union in 2018 thanks to the Janus decision.

She encouraged lawmakers to move forward with bills that now sit before the House committee and allow teachers who disagree with teacher union policy to exercise their rights. constitutional.

“Many teachers don’t know they have a choice” Honey continued. “I meet teachers and citizens all the time who are surprised that I am not unionized. They always answer: “You are a teacher, you have to be unionized. With this legislation, on day one, teachers will learn their First Amendment right not to join a union or pay dues if that is what they choose – information that is not currently being disclosed to them. They will also not be stuck in the union because of a collective agreement that contains limits on when a teacher can resign. “

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter for the Commonwealth Foundation in Harrisburg and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC

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