A lawsuit seeking to end forced union representation in the public sector has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Forced exclusive union representation is a policy in which a union has the authority to negotiate contracts for all employees in a working unit, even for a worker who is not a member of the union. A non-union employee is not allowed to opt out of receiving this representation and has no authority in negotiating his or her own employment agreement.
The Buckeye Institute, a free-market think tank based in Ohio, is arguing that this policy violates the First Amendment precedent set in the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus VS. AFSCME about a year and a half ago. The think tank filed its appeal to the Supreme Court on Thursday.
In Janus, the court ruled that forcing a non-union member working in the public sector to pay union fees violated that person’s right to free speech and association. The Buckeye Institute is arguing that a policy that does not allow a person to represent himself or herself in negotiations also violates the First Amendment, under this same reasoning.
Although the court did not rule on exclusive representation, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the decision that exclusive representation is a practice unique to unions and that it “substantially restricts the nonmembers’ rights.”
In the lawsuit, The Buckeye Institute is representing Jonathan Reisman, who is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. Reisman was previously a member of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine union, but decided to leave the union over political disagreements with its statewide and national affiliates: the Maine Education Association and the National Education Association.
"Professor Reisman is a hardworking public employee who has for many years been forced to associate with a union with which he disagrees and suffer it to speak for him," Robert Alt, president of The Buckeye Institute and the leading attorney on the case, said in a statement.
"If state law cannot compel public employees to financially support union advocacy – as the court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME – how can states require these same public employees to accept representation from unions that many of them have chosen not to join?” Alt said. “These are serious questions about the constitutionality of exclusive representation – questions which the U.S. Supreme Court needs to address."
The Buckeye Institute is representing two other public sector union workers in two other lawsuits that are also seeking to end forced exclusive union representation.