Friday, June 19, 2015

Suit Challenges Union's Application of Religious Exemption To Fair Share Fee Requirement

Under Pennsylvania's Public Employee Fair Share Fee Law, public employee unions may enter collective bargaining agreements that require non-union members to pay a fair share fee instead of dues. However for employees who object on religious grounds, the law permits the employee to pay an equivalent amount to a nonreligious charity agreed upon by the employee and the union.  This week, a teacher in a high school near Pittsburgh has filed suit in federal district court claiming her due process and free speech rights have been infringed by the union's refusing to accept the charities to which she wants to send her fair share fee.

The complaint (full text) in Misja v. Pennsylvania State Education Association, (MD PA, filed 6/18/2015), says that teacher Linda Misja initially requested that her payment be sent to People Concerned for the Unborn Child, but the union refused insisting that this would be sending the fees to an organization that furthers plaintiff's religious beliefs, instead of to a nonreligious charity as required by law.  Misja then requested that her fees be sent to the National Rifle Association Foundation. The union rejected this choice because it has a policy of not agreeing to the charitable subsidiaries of political organizations. According to the complaint:
Ms. Misja seeks a declaratory judgment that the PSEA cannot maintain its practice of withholding her funds indefinitely, without access to an independent decision-making process to resolve the disputed application thereof, and cannot engage in pernicious viewpoint discrimination by restricting her choice of charity simply because Ms. Misja’s chosen charity takes positions with which the PSEA does not agree.
The Fairness Center has issued a press release and a legal backgrounder on the case.