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Press Release 7.27.16

July 28, 2016

Contact:  Gina Diorio, 862-703-6670, gina@fairnesscenter.org

PSEA Intensifies Bullying of Religious Objectors
New Union Policy Tramples Due Process, Strips Legal Rights

July 27, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—As religious objectors to union membership, teachers Jane Ladley (retired, Chester County), Chris Meier (Lancaster County), and Linda Misja (Armstrong County) can send their money, otherwise owed to the union, to a charity they and the union agree on. But for years, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) has rejected their chosen charities, instead holding their money in escrow and demanding they donate it to a charity that furthers the very union ideology that led them to become religious objectors.   

Now, the PSEA has doubled down on its demand for control of religious objectors’ money. The PSEA instituted a new policy forcing religious objectors to accept binding arbitration to resolve disagreements over where their money will go, or else the union will give their money to a charity chosen solely by the PSEA.

This new policy comes in response to a complaint Jane and Chris filed against the union in Lancaster County court in September 2014, with the Fairness Center’s help. The Fairness Center also represents Linda in a case filed in federal court in June 2015.

“The PSEA wants to play the game but only if the deck is stacked in its favor,” commented Karin Sweigart, Deputy General Counsel for the Fairness Center. “The union just took a bad policy and made it worse, demanding teachers give up their right to appeal, and if they refuse, unilaterally taking their money to support the union’s agenda. If this is how the PSEA advocates for teachers, every teacher in Pennsylvania should be concerned.”

Sweigart continued, “This is Jane, Chris, and Linda’s money, and teachers have the right to use their own money to support charities they believe in. The PSEA needs a fair process to determine how disagreements are resolved, not one that gives the PSEA or a third party power to order teachers to comply with union dictates. We look forward to continuing to defend Jane, Chris, and Linda against the union’s unreasonable demands.”

Documents

The Plaintiffs

Jane Ladley is a 25-year veteran of the Pennsylvania public school system. She retired from Avon Grove School District in Chester County not long after the district went “agency shop,” requiring all teachers to either join the teachers’ union or pay a lesser “fair share fee.” Ladley’s status as a religious objector to the PSEA was accepted in 2013, but her money in lieu of the “fair share fee”  has been held in escrow since then, rather than funding her chosen charity.

Chris Meier, a father of three, teaches history and economics at Penn Manor High School in Lancaster County. He is also a “bona fide religious objector” whose charity of choice has been arbitrarily rejected by the PSEA.

Karin Sweigart is available for comment. Contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or gina@fairnesscenter.org to schedule an interview.

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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information, visit www.FairnessCenter.org.