Case argues forcing state employees to subsidize union officials’ speech violates First Amendment protections
Boston, MA (June 27, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Massachusetts educators are asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to hear their case challenging payments they are currently forced to make to union officials.
In 2014, four University of Massachusetts and Hanover School Committee educators filed a series of prohibited practice charges with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) against their employers and the union that holds monopoly bargaining contracts at their facilities. The charges challenge the constitutionality of the compulsory union fees that they are forced to pay.
The four plaintiffs have chosen to refuse union membership, but all must pay fees to National Educators Association union officials as a condition of their employment. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Dr. Ben Branch, is a Finance professor. His colleague and fellow plaintiff, Dr. Curtiss Conner, is a Chemistry professor, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Dr. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.
Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools. She had the union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempt to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and push to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.
All of these employees believe they would be better off without union representation and desire to be released from paying for the unwanted representation. Their charges at the Massachusetts DLR were dismissed on February 23, 2015, but only recently did the DLR formally transmit the record to the Court of Appeals.
Foundation staff attorneys now seek direct review of the educators’ case by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Ultimately the issue of the constitutionality of forced union fees for public employees will have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“These are dedicated teachers and professors who are being forced to pay dues and fees to union bosses who do not have their best interests in mind,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The fact that one of these educators had to pay forced fees to union officials, while the same officials were pushing for her termination, demonstrates the injustice of mandatory union payments for employees who never asked for or wanted union officials’ so-called ‘representation.’”
In addition to this case, Foundation staff attorneys have six other cases in federal court seeking a ruling that forced union payments for public employees violate the First Amendment. One of those cases, Janus v. AFSCME, is currently at the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.