Labor

Briefs filed in Maine workplace freedom case

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Twenty-two public policy organizations filed amicus briefs last week urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine (AFUM), a case that challenges what are known as exclusive representation laws.

If successful, the lawsuit, filed by the Buckeye Institute in August 2018, would allow public employees who are not members of a union to bargain on their own behalf in negotiations with their employer. In Maine and other states, exclusive representation laws force public workers in a unionized workplace, who are not members of the union, to accept union representation in matters with their employer.

The case involves Jonathan Reisman, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Maine at Machias, who is fighting for the right to negotiate on his own behalf for what he believes is in his best interest. He does not want a labor union that advocates for policies with which he disagrees to speak for him in contract negotiations with his employer.

In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that compelled speech in the form of mandatory dues or fees paid to a labor union violate the First Amendment rights of public employees. Prior to the ruling, public employees who were not members of the union were still required to pay fees for unwanted union representation.

Reisman, the Buckeye Institute and the 22 organizations submitting amicus briefs last week hope the high court agrees to hear his case and rules in his favor because, under a consistent application of the First Amendment, compelled speech in the form of exclusive representation should be struck down as it was in Janus with mandatory financial assistance to unions.

The Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Fairness Center, Freedom Foundation, Goldwater Institute, Liberty Justice Center, National Association of Scholars, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and Pacific Legal Foundation all filed briefs in support of Professor Reisman’s case.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center also filed a brief and was joined by Alaska Policy Forum, Americans for Tax Reform, California Policy Center, Center for Worker Freedom, Empire Center for Public Policy, James Madison Institute, John Locke Foundation, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Mississippi Justice Institute, Nevada Policy Research Institute, Pelican Institute for Public Policy and the Washington Policy Center.

“The lower courts’ refusal to acknowledge that forced exclusive representation violates the First Amendment calls for the Supreme Court’s intervention, and we hope the Court will take up this case and recognize that Professor Reisman, and other public employees like him, should not be forced to speak through or associate with unions with which they disagree,” said Andrew M. Grossman, the counsel of record on the Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine petition.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at MHPC. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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