Four Bay State educators argue that MTA scheme violates their rights by prohibiting nonmembers from having influence over workplace conditions
Boston, MA (January 7, 2019) – Tomorrow, a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney will deliver arguments at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for a group of Massachusetts educators. The educators are challenging state law that grants union officials’ monopoly bargaining privileges which union officials use to gag nonmembers from having a voice and a vote in their working conditions. The educators argue this violates their First Amendment rights.
The group of four educators, from the University of Massachusetts and Hanover School Committee, all believe they would be better off without representation from the National Educators Association (NEA) and its affiliates.
The plaintiffs argue their First Amendment rights are violated when they are forced to be union members to exercise their rights under state law to have a say in their workplace conditions. Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, workers cannot be required to fund a union. However, under Massachusetts labor laws the educators must waive their First Amendment rights and become full members to have any say in their working conditions.
The four plaintiffs have chosen to refrain from union membership. 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. The union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempted to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and pushed to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.
In the case, Foundation staff attorneys argue that Massachusetts state law violates the educators’ First Amendment rights by barring their voice and vote in their workplace conditions if they decide to refrain from becoming union members, paying full union dues, and supporting union political activity.
In the June 2018 Janus victory, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that forcing any public sector employee to pay union dues or fees violates the First Amendment. The educators’ case points out that denying workers a voice in their workplace unless they are union members is another form of compulsion to support a union, and should be ruled a violation of the First Amendment.
“These are dedicated teachers and professors who are being forced to choose between losing their voice in the workplace or paying tribute to union bosses who clearly do not have their best interests in mind,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Although the Foundation-won Janus decision upheld public sector workers’ First Amendment right to choose whether or not to pay union fees, union officials still seek to twist workers’ arms into funding Big Labor’s coffers. A clear ruling is needed to uphold these educators’ right to refrain from union membership without fear of retaliation or coercion.”
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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.