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Massachusetts Educators Petition Supreme Court to Review State Law Regarding Union Coercion

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On July 8, 2019, staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation submitted a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board.

This case involves four Massachusetts educators who are challenging the state’s monopoly bargaining law for its education system. The educators in question claim that the current state law is being exploited by union bosses to infringe on the First Amendment rights of teachers who are not members of a union. In the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s view, this move to keep non-unionized teachers from voting or expressing their opinions is a clear violation of their First Amendment rights.

The four plaintiffs are from the University of Massachusetts and the Hanover School Committee. They all refused to join the National Educators Association (NEA) and its local affiliates.

Even though the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, which the Foundation won, guarantees that union dues and fees are voluntary for all government workers, the law at hand forces them to become union members in order to speak out about their work conditions. This goes in complete violation of constitutional principles.

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To even express their opinions about the work environment, nonmembers like the four plaintiffs would have to forfeit their First Amendment rights under Janus and join the union. In other words, they would have to fund union political causes.

The lead plaintiff is Dr. Ben Branch, who is a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His colleague, Dr. Wm. Curtis Conner, also teaches chemistry there.

Another plaintiff, Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Melcuk’s birth in the Soviet Union has made him distrustful of collectivist organizations.

Last but certainly not least, plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-time educator at the Hanover Public Schools system. The union officials who are supposed to “represent” her attempted to nix her promotion to a new mentorship position. These same officials pushed to have Curran investigated and suspended. She ended up spending $35,000 of her own money fighting off union officials to protect her line of employment.

The National Right to Work President Marx Mix commented on this situation:

The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s refusal to apply the Janus ruling has left these educators facing a legally untenable situation: either they can avoid associating with a union with which they disagree and lose their voices in the workplace, or they can waive their Janus rights and have their money used for ideological causes they oppose.

Mix continued:

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.

The Right to Work leader said, “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.”

The National Right to Work committee has been at the forefront of ending the practice of forced unionization, which goes against the very principles of free association.

Their work is one of the strongest examples of right-wing success stories during the last few decades which has put the Left on notice in many states across the country.

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