Suit: PA Unions Continue to Charge Fees Ruled Unconstitutional *Update*

Government union PACs spent $5.8 million on Dem gov's election

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September 3, 2019

This post has been updated with comment from the PSEA

Pennsylvania teachers' unions continue to include mandatory fees from nonmembers in new contracts despite a Supreme Court decision that declared coercive payments unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of the 2018 Janus v. American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees ruling. The 5-4 decision said that government agencies violated the First Amendment rights of workers if they required employees to pay dues or fees to labor organizations. Democratic Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, who did not respond to requests for comment, benefited from nearly $6 million in PAC spending from government unions during his reelection campaign.

One non-union teacher suing to enforce the Janus ruling in Pennsylvania called the situation "absurd."

"As absurd as it sounds, [teachers' unions] are completely ignoring the Supreme Court's ruling," said Greg Hartnett. "The ruling is already benefiting me and countless others. But unfortunately, Pennsylvania law hasn't caught up with the times."

Before 2018, most Pennsylvania teachers who chose not to be union members still paid fees as a condition of employment. After the Janus v. AFSCME ruling declared these fees unconstitutional, at least 12 Pennsylvania school districts have continued to include the fees in new contracts.

Hartnett joined three other Pennsylvania teachers to sue the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) in an attempt to apply the Janus ruling to state law. A U.S. District Court allowed the pre-Janus laws to remain, ruling that the onus of enforcement should fall on labor unions to end the practice. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the union continues to negotiate fair share fees into new school district contracts even after the fees were ruled unconstitutional.

The PSEA did not return request for comment.

The workers are represented by the pro-free market nonprofit Fairness Center. David Osborne, the group's president and general counsel, said the contracts that have emerged in the wake of Janus demonstrate that "the PSEA is actually not interested in following" the ruling.

"One of the things we put in front of the Court was the fact that the PSEA, the largest teachers' union in the state, has actually been bargaining for agreements that include fair share fees after Janus was decided," Osborne told the Washington Free Beacon. "We have seven of those in front of the Court now, and I think it’s great evidence that perhaps the PSEA is actually not interested in following the law."

The Janus ruling has spurred multiple class-action suits across the country aimed at challenging dues practices or attempting to recover past fees. Many government workers, however, remain unaware of the implications of the landmark ruling. A June YouGov survey showed that more than half of the 1,000 teachers surveyed did not know Janus ended mandatory union dues. Less than a quarter of respondents reevaluated their union membership after the ruling.

Update: September 3 3:52 p.m.

A spokesman for the PSEA dismissed the suit "pointless litigation" and said the union had abided by the Janus decision.

"PSEA took immediate steps to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus and permanently stopped collecting fair share fees," the union said in an email. "PSEA has said all along that it makes little sense to waste resources on pointless litigation that accomplishes nothing since, after Janus, there is no dispute to be decided and no more relief to be obtained."