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Foundation Attorneys Bring Exclusive Representation Case for Mass Teachers

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In what could be the next groundbreaking development in the road to teacher freedom, attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (of which CEAFU is a Special Project) have brought a case in Massachusetts against two Massachusetts unions on behalf of union members whose constitutional rights are being violated by forcing them to choose between becoming union members and having to pay dues or being denied a say in the collective bargaining process.

While the Janus decision last year gave teachers and all public sector workers the right to refrain from union membership, it was just a step on the long journey to true teacher freedom.   In many states teacher union officials have locked up teacher freedom with exclusive representation privileges which dictate working conditions for all teachers, but do not let all of those teachers have a say in their working conditions.  If a teacher chooses to be a nonmember where an exclusive representative clause is in effect, that teacher cannot vote on the monopoly bargaining contract or any say in any union business.  As a consequence, many teachers become union members so they have more say in their own working conditions because otherwise they are not free to negotiate with their employer on an individual basis.

Patriot Ledger Staff has the story in that paper.

Four Massachusetts educators, including Hanover’s Deborah Curran, have partnered with the National Right to Work Coalition to argue that unions should not have the right to be the sole representative of employees in their workplace.

The state Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the case in April, ruling that unions can be the exclusive representative of employees, even for workers who aren’t in the union.

On Monday, attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation submitted a petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The plaintiffs are Ben Branch and Curtis Conner, professors at UMass-Amherst; Andre Melcuk, director of departmental information technology at UMass-Amherst; and Curran, a longtime teacher in Hanover.

“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,” the foundation said of Curran on its website. “She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.”

The plaintiffs argue in their case, Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, that exclusive representation rights infringe on a worker’s First Amendment right to have a voice in their own labor conditions.

In its April dismissal, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that unions are authorized to represent workers through elections in which all employees have a say, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld exclusive representation as necessary to allow for effective collective bargaining.

“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,” National Right to Work President Mark Mix said in a statement. “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.”