A Penn Manor teacher has filed a lawsuit over how the state’s largest teachers’ union uses his union fees.
In the suit, history and economics teacher Chris Meier argues that he should be allowed to redirect the fees he is required to pay to the Pennsylvania State Education Association, of which Meier is not a member.
Meier wants the fees to go to a group that fights compulsory unionism.
PSEA has balked.
Now Meier, and a retired Chester County teacher with a similar complaint, are suing, under a state law that allows individuals with religious objections to union membership to instead direct that fee — about $435 per year — to a nonreligious charity. The union must agree to the selected charity.
Meier’s selected organization is the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
A PSEA representative said the union rejected that choice as a conflict of interest, because the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has previously sued PSEA.
“My interpretation was that the only criteria listed (in the law) was that it needed to be nonreligious and it needed to be a charity,” Meier said in a phone interview.
Meier is represented by The Fairness Center, a nonprofit law firm that offers “free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders,” according to its website.
Fairness Center attorney Nate Bohlander called PSEA’s disapproval of Meier’s selection hypocritical. He said that the union provided a list of 12 alternative options which have a political agenda.
PSEA representative David Broderic said the list of suggestions was nonexclusive. Fees from other religious objectors go to about 100 different charities, he said.
Of about 6,000 non-member fee payers, PSEA directs money from 200 religious objectors to charities, according to Broderic. Five requests are under active review.
“Most of the time they’re reviewed quickly and approved rapidly,” Broderic said.
“We have a lot of confidence in the process that we use.”
The civil suit was filed in Lancaster County court Thursday.
The Fairness Center says PSEA’s objections to the plaintiffs’ chosen charities are arbitrary. It is asking the court to reject the union’s restrictions.