Teachers Ask SCOTUS to Review Law Allowing Union to Condition Say in Workplace Rights on Membership

UMass Amherst students head across campus in 2014. (Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images via JTA)
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images via JTA

The National Right to Work (NRTW) Legal Defense Foundation has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of four Massachusetts teachers who are asking the high Court to review a state law that allows a union to block non-members from having a voice in workplace conditions.

Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board involves lead plaintiff Dr. Ben Branch, a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and three other educators. According to NRTW, the teachers are “challenging the application of the state’s monopoly bargaining law for its educational system as a violation of their Constitutional rights.”

The foundation states:

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, results in depriving nonmember teachers of their First Amendment rights.

The four plaintiffs have all turned down membership in the National Education Association (NEA) – the nation’s largest teachers’ union – and its local affiliates.

However, according to current state law, unions may block teachers from having a say in their own work conditions and workplace rights unless they waive their First Amendment rights, under the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, and join the union. Joining the union would mean paying union dues and funding the union’s political causes.

The petition to the U.S. Supreme Court was initiated after the Massachusetts Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit.

NRTW President Mark Mix said in a statement:

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.

“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,” he added. “Such schemes are effectively a modern version of Tammany Hall that should be a thing of the past, and it’s time for courts to acknowledge it.”


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