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These Teachers Accused a Pennsylvania Teachers Union of Ignoring a Supreme Court Decision on Mandatory Dues

Teacher Rebecca Friedrichs didn’t want to pay dues to teachers unions that donated money to leftist politicians. At the time, government school teachers could opt out of union membership but still had to pay dues as a condition of employment.

Friedrichs filed a lawsuit in 2014 and became the lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case but deadlocked 4-4 after Justice Antonin Scalia died. The high court struck down mandatory union dues for state government employees in a similar case, Janus v. AFSCME (2018). The court contended that the policy violates the First Amendment.

But as it happened in at least one Supreme Court decision in favor of an individual defending his First Amendment rights, government entities might ignore or defy these rulings.

A group of teachers in Pennsylvania sued a teachers union for continuing to require government school teachers to pay union dues. Art teacher Greg Hartnett and others said the Pennsylvania State Education Association’s (PSEA) actions violate their First Amendment rights. From the Daily Signal:

“PSEA specifically has a history of thumbing its nose at Supreme Court precedent, and it has sometimes required litigation to make them comply with the court’s rulings,” Nathan McGrath, litigation director at the Fairness Center, said of the teachers union.

The case, Hartnett v. PSEA, is with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule in a few months. The Fairness Center teamed with the National Right to Work Foundation to represent the four complaining teachers.

The brief filed in August argues that the teachers union has a long history of undermining and violating Supreme Court rulings. It cites several examples that occurred after the high court’s June 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which invalidated fair share fees, as being the latest in a series.

Hartnett shared his story at The Fairness Center, which represents him and the other teachers.

I witnessed how out of touch many union leaders have become during teacher contract negotiations in Indiana County’s Homer-Center School District, where I teach. To avoid potential teacher layoffs or a community-harming tax increase, I asked the union to drop its demand for salary increases. The union ignored me, adhering to bargaining tactics established decades ago that put union leaders’ priorities first, and union members’ wishes and the community’s well-being last.

As negotiations dragged on, I learned that union leaders who once secured individual workers’ rights now violate them to maintain one-size-fits-all contracts that secure their power. I learned that even if union leaders treat my opinion as worthless, the law still entitles them to a portion of my salary every year. Most of all, I learned that to keep teaching, I had to give up my constitutional rights of free speech and free association.

Photo credit: The Fairness Center

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