National Right to Work Foundation Files Brief Supporting Law to Safeguard Teachers’ First Amendment Rights

On July 24, 2023, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation submitted a brief at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Anderson Federation of Teachers, et al. v. Rokita. This case defends an Indiana law that shields teachers’ First Amendment rights against a lawsuit that teacher union bosses filed. The case is an appeal of a District Court judge’s preliminary injunction granted at the request of union lawyers. The union lawyers wanted to prevent the bill from going into effect.

At the District Court, the Anderson Federation of Teachers challenged Indiana’s State Enrolled Act 251 and 297. These acts require written consent from teachers, which includes an acknowledgement of their constitutional right to refuse to financially back a union, prior to a taxpayer-funded government payroll systems can be used to deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks.

In the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, the Supreme Court recognized that employees have a First Amendment right to refuse subsidizing union speech in. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys argued and won the case.

In the Janus decision, the Court ruled that compelling public sector workers to subsidize union activities as a condition of employment infringes on the First Amendment. The Court also argued that no union dues or fees can be seized from a public worker’s wages without a knowing and intelligent waiver of that employee’s First Amendment freedom to not to pay. Moreover, such a waiver “cannot be presumed.”

The National Right to Work attorneys’ brief upholds the Indiana law and urges the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the injunction, contending that the lower court ruling made three critical mistakes in its justification of the ruling.

“It is outrageous that teacher union bosses in Indiana apparently believe they are entitled to use taxpayer-funded payroll systems to seize money directly from teachers’ paychecks – without the State taking steps to ensure that those teachers’ constitutional rights are protected,” stated Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Precedents in the Seventh Circuit and elsewhere make it clear that the injunction should be rejected, and this law should be allowed to take immediate effect.”

“It would be fully within the prerogative of Indiana lawmakers to ban union officials from deducting dues from government workers’ paychecks all together, or ban all monopoly bargaining to ensure individual teachers are not subjected to unwanted union so-called ‘representation,’” Mix added. “If anything, Indiana teacher union bosses should count themselves lucky lawmakers have so far not been more proactive in protecting teachers’ First Amendment free speech and freedom of association rights.”

Public sector unions are the worst of the worst. Because of the taxpayer-funded nature of their work, taxpayers are constantly held hostage everytime they strike or negotiate for higher wages. Ultimately, public sector unionization needs to be banned, or at least weakened substantially. 

Such type of coercion cannot be allowed to occur in a so-called land of the free. 

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