On February 5th, the Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) filed an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Professor Jonathan Reisman in Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF) were honored to join MHPC and ten other nonprofit organizations in support of the First Amendment rights of state government workers.

The rights of state government workers, like Professor Reisman, are currently being violated. Many of these workers are forced to accept “representation” by labor unions even though they are not members of these organizations, nor do they support them. These unions have control over the workers’ wages, hours and the terms and conditions of employment. The workers are not allowed to negotiate their own terms and conditions of employment with their employer, nor can these workers choose other unions to represent them. This is known as exclusive representation. Exclusive representation or forcing workers to accept the speech of labor unions as their own is a violation of the First Amendment rights of free speech and association. The Reisman case would restore the First Amendment freedoms of these workers by ending exclusive representation.

The Reisman case began in 2018 when the Buckeye Institute filed a complaint with the United States District Court for the District of Maine. Jonathan Reisman, a professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Maine at Machias, argued that Maine’s law allowing a union to become the exclusive bargaining representative for public employees violates his First Amendment rights. The court unfortunately dismissed the action, citing the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Professor Reisman appealed to the First Circuit, and that court affirmed the district court’s decision. Professor Reisman has now filed a petition for certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Interestingly, Professor Reisman is not the only one challenging exclusive representation. This case is actually one of three cases where the Buckeye Institute is representing state employees who are seeking to end exclusive representation. Kathy Uradnik of Minnesota was the first to challenge exclusive representation after the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, and Jade Thompson of Ohio is also challenging exclusive representation. In the Uradnik case, the plaintiff is Kathy Uradnik, a professor of political science at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Her union, the Inter Faculty Organization, discriminated against nonunion faculty members by forbidding them from joining the Faculty Senate or serving on any faculty search, service or governance committee. This ban reduced their ability to obtain tenure and participate in their University.

Another plaintiff, Jade Thompson, a Spanish teacher in Ohio, also experienced similar discrimination. Her union, the Marietta Education Association, also excluded nonunion members from key committees. In addition, the union required that seniority determine who was fired during layoffs.   

These cases are the next step to protect the rights of workers after the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME decision. That case ensured that government workers are not forced to support unions that they have chosen not to join. These cases ensure that government workers are not represented by organizations that they do not support.

ATR and CWF strongly urge the Supreme Court to consider the Reisman case and restore the First Amendment rights of these workers.