November 2, 2023, Allentown, Pa.—Allentown Symphony Orchestra musician Glen Wilkofsky petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to protect his First Amendment right to perform in the symphony without paying a union. If the Court takes his case and rules in his favor, thousands of employees at certain nonprofits across the commonwealth could be affected.
Wilkofsky’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari explains that he stopped paying union dues when he realized his money was funding union political activity he disagreed with. In the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, the Supreme Court ruled that public employees can’t be forced to pay a union as a condition of employment. But Wilkofsky’s union threatened to get him fired from his position with the symphony unless he paid up.
Wilkofsky argues that he is a public employee entitled to Janus rights for two reasons:
- His former union, the American Federation of Musicians, Local 45 is organized under the state’s Public Employee Relations Act (PERA).
- His employer, the Allentown Symphony Association, Inc., is a nonprofit that receives significant public funding, which qualifies the symphony as a public employer for collective bargaining purposes under state law.
In 2022, Wilkofsky filed a federal lawsuit to defend his First Amendment rights of free speech and association, citing Janus. His case was unsuccessful in district court and was dismissed at the Third Circuit in May 2023. Wilkofsky is now asking the high court to affirm his rights.
If the Court accepts his case and rules in his favor, thousands of other Pennsylvania employees could be affected.
According to documents obtained by the Fairness Center through Right-to-Know request, dozens of unions were certified under PERA (as Wilkofsky’s was) between 1970 and 2020. Many of these unions represent employees working at nonprofits, like the Allentown Symphony, that receive significant public funding.
A ruling in Wilkofsky’s favor could affect employees who are members of certain collective bargaining units at various nonprofits (including the small sample below) in Pennsylvania’s healthcare, education, and transportation sectors:
- Philadelphia Port Corporation
- Temple University Health System
- Thomas Jefferson University
- Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Saint Luke’s and Children’s Medical Center
- Hahnemann Medical College & Hospital of Philadelphia
- Harrisburg Polyclinic Hospital
- Pennsylvania State University Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
“Union and management officials are colluding to deny my First Amendment rights by holding my job hostage for one reason: power. I hope the Supreme Court protects my right to do the job I love without forced submission to a political organization disguised as a union.”
Nathan McGrath, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center, which represents Wilkofsky, said:
“Pennsylvania law states that employees in Glen’s position can be considered public employees in collective bargaining. That means the Constitution protects his First Amendment rights. If the Supreme Court takes Glen’s case, the justices will have an opportunity to ensure that the Janus decision applies to all employees who deserve its protections.”
Fairness Center attorneys are available for comment. Please contact Anna Kertland at email@example.com or 844.293.1001 to schedule an interview.
The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those hurt by public-sector union officials. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.