The Fairness Center
Contact: John Bouder, 570-490-1042, [email protected]
Judge: PSEA Imposing ‘Unenforceable’ Binding Arbitration Practice on Religious Objectors
Third Religious Objector Lawsuit Exposes Unconstitutional Teachers’ Union Policy
May 11, 2017, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Last year, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) suddenly revised its internal policy governing religious objectors to unionism in response to two lawsuits filed by Pennsylvania teachers. Now, in response to a third lawsuit, a federal judge has called that change "unenforceable."
Filed on December 22, 2016, by James R. Williams, James R. Williams v. PSEA alleges that the union’s new arbitration procedure tramples teachers’ due process rights.
As a religious objector to unionism, Williams, who teaches science at West Middlesex Jr./Sr. High School in Mercer County, is permitted by state law to send the money he’s otherwise forced to pay to the teachers’ union to a non-religious charity he and the union agree upon.
The PSEA rejected Williams’ chosen charity, is holding his money in escrow, and sought to force him into binding arbitration to resolve the disagreement. Per the PSEA’s new policy, if Williams refuses binding arbitration, the PSEA would claim sole authority to select a charity and direct his money to it.
In a recent opinion in Williams’ lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III wrote that the "PSEA’s procedures still include the unconstitutional arbitration agreement" and the PSEA "could not enforce the arbitration provision, as it is effectively unenforceable."
"The PSEA’s approach to religious objectors has been, ‘Either agree with us on the charity you support—or we’ll force you to agree with us,’" commented David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center, which represents the plaintiffs in all three lawsuits. "This is an outright violation of our clients’ rights. It’s time the PSEA stop trying to bully religious objectors into funding the union’s priorities and respect their right to support the charities they choose."
In addition to the Williams case, Judge Jones is the presiding judge in a similar federal case filed in 2015, Linda Misja v. PSEA, which challenges the union for refusing to let Misja direct the equivalent of her union "fair share fee" to a pro-life charity, which the PSEA claimed would "further [her] religious beliefs."
These two federal cases have been stayed pending the outcome of Jane Ladley & Chris Meier v. PSEA, which was filed in 2014 and is currently before the Lancaster County Court. The PSEA denied Ladley’s charity as too "political" and deemed Meier’s a "conflict of interest."
David Osborne is available for comment today. Contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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