Employee Rights Notification Becomes Imperative Following New Court Ruling

Laws contradicting U.S. Supreme Court decisions should be removed from the books, or at least that’s what Pennsylvania teachers Greg Hartnett, Elizabeth Galaska, Rob Brough, and John Cress rationally argued in Hartnett v. PSEA (2017).

As non-union employees, they sued for the right to stop paying nonmember fair share fees—then a condition of employment. After the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME (2018) that these fees violated the constitution, the Pennsylvania teachers amended their lawsuit, requesting the court to void Pennsylvania laws violating the Janus ruling and stop unions from including nonmember fee provisions in new contracts.

A favorable ruling in Hartnett would have ensured no current or future government workers would be forced or misled into giving up their First Amendment rights to do the jobs they love.

Unfortunately, earlier this week a U.S. District Court judge let the unconstitutional laws remain, trusting unions to abide by the ruling now and in the future.

This ruling is troubling on multiple fronts.

Union leaders have a history of breaking the rules. Instead of promoting workers’ new rights, union leaders mislead members into thinking they’ll lose all representation if they resign; and one union even lied to members, saying they had to be part of the union. Too often, government takes a neutral stance.

In fact, when confronted with proof PSEA has negotiated fair share fees into multiple school district contracts after they were ruled unconstitutional, the judge wrote, “as surprising as those submissions may be …they are irrelevant to the issue.” In other words, proof PSEA is violating Janus isn’t relevant to the question of whether PSEA will violate Janus?

The districts negotiating fair share fees into their contracts include:

  • Upper Darby School District
  • East Stroudsburg School District
  • Steel Valley School District
  • Southern Fulton School District
  • Penn Hills School District
  • Jefferson-Morgan School District
  • Oxford Area School District
  • New Kensington-Arnold School District
  • Hanover Area School District
  • Tuscarora School District
  • New Hope-Solebury School District
  • Penn Manor School District

Many workers still don’t know their rights. As Greg Hartnett testified last year, most workers haven’t heard of Janus. Without awareness, they could be bullied into paying fees the highest court in the nation deemed unconstitutional.

Promises from union leaders are not enough to ensure workers are protected.

House Bill 785, introduced by Rep. Kate Klunk and passed by the House State Government Committee earlier this year, would remove Pennsylvania laws violating the Janus decision, and inform non-union and new employees of their existing rights to voluntary union membership. Sen. Scott Martin introduced a similar bill, Senate Bill 371.

If the courts will not enforce a constitutional ruling, the legislature must act because, as Greg Harnett explains, “Regardless of your beliefs, no public employee should have their voice co-opted against their will.”

Striking Pa.’s fair share laws and requiring public employers to notify workers isn’t duplicative, it’s imperative.