Despite a partial victory, Right to Work Foundation presses forward with lawsuit to ensure all public educators’ rights are protected
Louisville, KY (November 18, 2009) – Facing an embarrassing legal setback from rank-and-file teachers, Jefferson County Teacher Association (JCTA) union officials announced their intention to refund several educators’ forced dues and allow public school employees to resign from union membership during a new window period and terminate certain forced dues payments.
This announcement comes on the heels of a class-action lawsuit filed by Jefferson County educators with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation. The lawsuit, filed against the JCTA union and its national affiliate, the National Education Association (NEA) union, in U.S. District Court, seeks the return of illegally seized dues, a modification of the union’s contract to allow employees to resign from union membership at any time, and a regular notice from the union brass informing public school employees of their right to refrain from formal union membership.
Currently, teachers employed in Jefferson County are automatically enrolled as union members and forced to pay full union dues unless they explicitly register an objection to JCTA union officials. Before union officials announced their new policy, teachers were only permitted to resign from formal union membership during a ten day-window period after an individual teacher’s contract was signed or after the union hierarchy agreed to a new contract with the local school board. If a teacher failed to register an objection to union membership within either period, he or she was forced to remain a full dues-paying union member until the expiration of the union’s five-year contract with the local school board.
The suit has already prompted union officials to announce their intention to refund over $1,100 of confiscated union dues to each of the lawsuit’s named plaintiffs, but apparently not to the hundreds of other educators represented in the class action lawsuit. Union officials have also unveiled a new opt-out period for educators seeking to leave the union that lasts until December 31.
However, Foundation attorneys believe that these changes do not address several core concerns raised in the educators’ lawsuit. Under the new policy, Jefferson County educators can still be automatically enrolled in the union without their consent and dissatisfied union members will still be forced to wait for an unconstitutional, union-designated window period to resign. Moreover, JCTA officials retain the option of reversing these policy changes without a binding legal precedent.
“Union bosses know that their illegal policy won’t hold up under the scrutiny of a federal class-action lawsuit, and this belated concession is a desperate attempt to avoid issuing refunds to literally hundreds of educators whose rights have been violated,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “JCTA bosses must get rid of their coercive membership policy in its entirety, and we intend to pursue all legal remedies available to the Kentucky educators whose rights are being violated.”