Why Two Teachers are Suing the PSEA

On Monday, a judge will hear oral arguments in a case challenging the PSEA’s refusal to allow two Pennsylvania teachers to donate their fair share fees to the charity of their choice. The teachers, Jane Ladley and Chris Meier, are targets of an illegal public union scheme to block nonunion employees from sending money to certain charities, thereby allowing the PSEA to funnel money to its preferred private charities.

Chris Meier, a social studies teacher at Penn Manor school district, explains why he took the dramatic step of legal action.

“You may be wondering why this mild-mannered social studies teacher is challenging the Goliath of a state union known as the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) in court. I have no interest in forcing my views on anyone, but for those who are curious, I’ve attempted a reasonable explanation.

In 2012, our teacher contract included for the first time a “fair share” clause. In my school district, the clause required that, so long as union membership is above 90%, all teachers who choose to be nonmembers are forced to pay $435 per year. The 1988 law allowing this agency shop situation provides all PA teachers the freedom to file a religious objection to union association. That just means the teacher is legally entitled to give that amount to a “NONRELIGIOUS CHARITY” instead of giving it to the union. But the PSEA rejected the charity I chose.

Our case asks the court to declare that the PSEA does not have the authority to deny charitable contributions if they meet the legal criteria. The court, and the public, should realize that the PSEA has overstepped its authority, and cannot reject charitable contributions based entirely on arbitrary internal policies.

This is NOT a statement decrying the evils of unionization. I do not believe unions are inherently bad. It all comes down to this: I believe that everyone should have the freedom… to join, or not to join.

This is NOT a critique of our local union (PMEA). I have tremendous respect for our district’s family of teachers, administrators and staff. When I was a younger teacher, I asked if there was any possible way to support and be a member of the PMEA without being connected to the PSEA or NEA.

I propose that teachers would be FAR better off if local unions simply withdrew from PSEA and NEA, making membership in these groups voluntary, handling negotiations at the local level.”

If you’re concerned with how your dues or fair share fees are being used, check out Free to Teach’s primer, Where do Your Dues Go?, and consider sharing your own story with Free to Teach.