The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.
Massachusetts educators can only affect their working conditions if they waive their First Amendment rights
Plaintiffs Dr. Andre Melcuk (left) and Dr. Wm. Curtis Conner (right) asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case challenging Massachusetts’ government union monopoly bargaining scheme as a violation of their First Amendment rights.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In July staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, a lawsuit brought by four Massachusetts educators challenging the application of the state’s union monopoly bargaining law as a violation of their constitutional rights.
The educators argue that the state law, which is manipulated by union bosses to block teachers who are not union members from voting or otherwise voicing their opinions in the determination of their own working conditions, illegally deprives non-member teachers of their First Amendment rights.
Plaintiffs Say NEA Teacher Union Bosses Violated First Amendment Rights
The four plaintiffs hail from the University of Massachusetts and the Hanover School Committee. Each has their own reasons for rejecting membership in the National Education Association (NEA) and its local affiliates. While the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision guarantees that union fees and membership are strictly voluntary for all public sector workers, the policy in question unconstitutionally forces them to become full union members just to be able to impact their work environment.
To have any say in their own work conditions, non-members like the four educators would have to waive their First Amendment rights under Janus and join the union, which means paying full union dues and funding union boss political activities.
Four Massachusetts Educators Ask Supreme Court to Apply Janus Precedent
The lead plaintiff, Dr. Ben Branch, is a longtime finance professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a colleague of fellow plaintiff Dr. Wm. Curtis Conner, who teaches chemistry there.
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 system. 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.
The petition comes after the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided the case against the group in April.
“The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s refusal to apply the Janus ruling has left these educators facing a legally untenable situation: Either they can avoid associating with a union with which they disagree and lose their voices in the workplace, or they can waive their Janus rights and have their money used for ideological causes they oppose,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The state of Massachusetts is forcing these educators to fund state legislators’ union political allies if they want even the most limited participation in the government created bargaining process that controls their conditions of employment.”
“Such schemes border on extortion and it’s time for courts to acknowledge it,” added Mix.