Jonathan Reisman, an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias, is appealing his case, Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine (AFUM), to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Friday, Jan. 2, The Buckeye Institute, the organization representing Reisman in his case, filed an appeal to SCOTUS calling for an end to laws in Maine and other states that force public-sector employees to accept compelled union representation. This process, called exclusive representation (a policy for which unions advocate), prevents nonmember employees in a bargaining unit from representing themselves in matters with their employer.
In 2018, the high court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that public employees cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a labor union as a condition of employment. Before Janus, nonmember public employees were compelled to pay “agency fees” to a union for the cost of the organization’s representational activities concerning the employee, despite rejecting the union’s representation by refusing to join or opting out of membership.
SCOTUS ruled this practice violates the First Amendment rights of public employees. Reisman is asking the high court to consider exclusive representation laws under the same principle. If compelled payments to a union violate a public employee’s First Amendment rights, compelled representation must also violate employee’s rights.
“Professor Reisman is a hardworking public employee who has for many years been forced to associate with a union with which he disagrees and suffer it to speak for him,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute and a lead attorney on the case. “If state law cannot compel public employees to financially support union advocacy — as the court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME — how can states require these same public employees to accept representation from unions that many of them have chosen not to join? These are serious questions about the constitutionality of exclusive representation — questions which the U.S. Supreme Court needs to address.”
“Despite resigning his union membership, Professor Reisman is required by Maine law be represented by a union with which he does not agree and of which he is not a member,” said Andrew M. Grossman, a partner at BakerHostetler in Washington, D.C., and counsel of record on the Reisman v. AFUM petition. “Following the Court’s landmark Janus ruling, it is clear that these laws are unconstitutional, and we hope the Court will recognize them as such.”
Reisman formerly served as a grievance officer with his union before resigning his membership after the Janus decision. His former union, AFUM, is affiliated with the Maine Education Association and the National Education Association, which has taken political stances that Reisman finds objectionable.
While the outcome of Janus freed him from the requirement of either joining the union or being forced to pay representation fees, Maine law still forces AFUM to be Reisman’s exclusive representative, meaning he is still associated with the positions the union takes.
If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Reisman’s case and rules in his favor, the First Amendment rights of public employees to represent themselves in matters with their employer would be restored. The end result is true freedom of speech and association, not compelled speech and association as required by state labor law.
The Buckeye Institute is also representing public employees in other post-Janus lawsuits throughout the country, including Kathy Uradnik of St. Cloud State University in Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization and Jade Thompson, a Spanish teacher in Ohio, in Thompson v. Marietta Education Association.