Two New Jersey teachers are challenging a state law that they called out as “un-American” during a recent television interview.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision in June declared that public employees should be allowed resign their union membership and stop paying union dues whenever they choose. But union officials blocked teachers Susan G. Fischer and Jeanette Speck from doing just that.
Fischer and Speck recently filed a class action lawsuit, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, after school district officials in the Township of Ocean refused to allow them to stop paying union membership dues.
During an interview with NJTV, a PBS affiliate based in New Jersey, Fischer clarified that she is not opposed unions. Instead, Fischer said that she and Speck filed their lawsuit out of a sense of basic fairness.
“I am not anti-union. I am a team player. I’ve been a teacher for 30 years,” Fischer explained. She later added: “You have to pay if you join and pay if you don’t join. That was so un-American to us.”
School district officials had claimed that the teachers could only stop payments and withdraw during a 10-day “window period” every year.
Foundation staff attorney William Messenger explained that this “window period” scheme was allowed under a New Jersey law. Messenger said this “basically means for 355 to 356 days of every year, public employees in New Jersey can’t exercise their Janus rights.”
The lawsuit challenges the New Jersey law as unconstitutional under Janus. The High Court said that union bosses cannot force public-sector workers to pay union membership dues and fees, since this violates the First Amendment.
The teachers are suing New Jersey Governor Phil Murphey, the New Jersey Education Association, and the Township of Ocean Education Association, seeking a refund of membership dues forcibly taken after they resigned their union membership, as well as for all other public employees who attempted to resign following Janus.