Professors Seek Freedom from ‘Anti-Semitic’ Union’s Representation

Goldstein v. PSC/CUNY

CASE SUMMARY

Avraham Goldstein and five other City University of New York (CUNY) professors were outraged when their union issued a resolution they viewed as “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic.”

Though these professors are no longer union members, New York law forces them to still accept the union’s representation and allows union officials to treat nonmembers as second-class employees. The professors’ lawsuit seeks to vindicate their First Amendment rights and free them from the “exclusive representation” of a union they believe hates them.


Professor Flees Soviet Anti-Semitism


Professor Avraham Goldstein is an observant Orthodox Jew born in the former Soviet Union, where he and his family suffered extreme anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish abuse. His family eventually emigrated to Israel, where he remains a citizen. Avraham moved to New York and became a professor of mathematics at CUNY and a member of its faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (PSC).


CUNY Union Issues ‘Anti-Semitic’ Statement


In 2021, the PSC issued a resolution that encouraged support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and referred to Israel as an “apartheid” state. Avraham and other professors viewed the statement as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic and resigned their union membership in protest. However, the PSC did not immediately acknowledge several of our clients’ resignations and continued taking union dues from their paychecks.


Janus  Freed Nonmembers from Union Payments, not Representation


The Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME held that nonmember public employees could not be forced to pay fees to a union, as doing so would violate their First Amendment rights.

But the Janus decision did not address the reality Avraham and his five co-plaintiffs now faced: As nonmembers, they nonetheless must accept the “exclusive representation” of a union they believe is anti-Semitic. They cannot choose other representation or represent themselves with their employer.


New York Law Worsens Professors’ Plight


In 2018, shortly before the Janus decision, New York passed an amendment to its Taylor Law—the law governing public-sector collective bargaining in the state—to reduce the duties public-sector unions owed to nonmembers. Prior to this law, unions had a duty to fairly represent both members and nonmembers. Now, unions like the PSC were free to treat nonmembers, like these professors, as second-class employees, offering them inferior services compared to members.


Lawsuit Seeks End to the PSC’s ‘Exclusive Representation’ of the Professors


In 2022, the Fairness Center, along with attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, filed a lawsuit on Avraham and his co-plaintiffs’ behalf to free them from the PSC’s representation. The PSC quickly stopped taking the professors’ union dues, and the professors were refunded the dues that they alleged were improperly taken from them. This ensured that the professors no longer funded a union they considered to be hateful.

Crucially, the lawsuit argues that “exclusive representation” violates the professors’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association by forcing them to accept representation from a union that they believe hates them.

In 2023, the professors appealed to the Second Circuit, where they are challenging the state’s power to force them to be represented and spoken for by the PSC, despite its rhetoric they disagree with and view as anti-Semitic.

“New York law shouldn’t provide cover for unions at the cost of individual freedom. Nor should it countenance forcing Jews to associate with a union that doesn’t want them around.” –Avraham Goldstein

This case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. It is currently before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.


Documents

CASE SUMMARY

Avraham Goldstein and five other City University of New York (CUNY) professors were outraged when their union issued a resolution they viewed as “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic.”

Though these professors are no longer union members, New York law forces them to still accept the union’s representation and allows union officials to treat nonmembers as second-class employees. The professors’ lawsuit seeks to vindicate their First Amendment rights and free them from the “exclusive representation” of a union they believe hates them.


Professor Flees Soviet Anti-Semitism


Professor Avraham Goldstein is an observant Orthodox Jew born in the former Soviet Union, where he and his family suffered extreme anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish abuse. His family eventually emigrated to Israel, where he remains a citizen. Avraham moved to New York and became a professor of mathematics at CUNY and a member of its faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (PSC).


CUNY Union Issues ‘Anti-Semitic’ Statement


In 2021, the PSC issued a resolution that encouraged support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and referred to Israel as an “apartheid” state. Avraham and other professors viewed the statement as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic and resigned their union membership in protest. However, the PSC did not immediately acknowledge several of our clients’ resignations and continued taking union dues from their paychecks.


Janus  Freed Nonmembers from Union Payments, not Representation


The Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME held that nonmember public employees could not be forced to pay fees to a union, as doing so would violate their First Amendment rights.

But the Janus decision did not address the reality Avraham and his five co-plaintiffs now faced: As nonmembers, they nonetheless must accept the “exclusive representation” of a union they believe is anti-Semitic. They cannot choose other representation or represent themselves with their employer.


New York Law Worsens Professors’ Plight


In 2018, shortly before the Janus decision, New York passed an amendment to its Taylor Law—the law governing public-sector collective bargaining in the state—to reduce the duties public-sector unions owed to nonmembers. Prior to this law, unions had a duty to fairly represent both members and nonmembers. Now, unions like the PSC were free to treat nonmembers, like these professors, as second-class employees, offering them inferior services compared to members.


Lawsuit Seeks End to the PSC’s ‘Exclusive Representation’ of the Professors


In 2022, the Fairness Center, along with attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, filed a lawsuit on Avraham and his co-plaintiffs’ behalf to free them from the PSC’s representation. The PSC quickly stopped taking the professors’ union dues, and the professors were refunded the dues that they alleged were improperly taken from them. This ensured that the professors no longer funded a union they considered to be hateful.

Crucially, the lawsuit argues that “exclusive representation” violates the professors’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association by forcing them to accept representation from a union that they believe hates them.

In 2023, the professors appealed to the Second Circuit, where they are challenging the state’s power to force them to be represented and spoken for by the PSC, despite its rhetoric they disagree with and view as anti-Semitic.

“New York law shouldn’t provide cover for unions at the cost of individual freedom. Nor should it countenance forcing Jews to associate with a union that doesn’t want them around.” –Avraham Goldstein

This case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. It is currently before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.


Documents

MEDIA

NYC profs see Supreme Court as ‘only hope’ in fight with ‘antisemitic’ teachers union

Fox News

The Union at the Center of
CUNY’s Antisemitism Problem

The Hill

January 22, 2024: “The Fairness Center, a nonprofit public interest law firm representing the professors, says that with amendments to the Taylor Law, ‘unions like the PSC are free to treat nonmembers, like these professors, as second-class employees, offering them inferior services compared to members.’”

July 21, 2023: “Unless the courts intervene, PSC officials will remain free to alienate Jews, knowing their only escape from the union is to quit their jobs. Not only that, but public employees across the country who object to their unions’ divisive actions or political stances would similarly remain trapped in unwanted representation.”

CUNY Professors Fighting to Leave Faculty Union File Brief in Second Appeals Court

The Algemeiner

Offended by Kanye’s Antisemitism?
Examine Academia, too

Washington Examiner

June 7, 2023: “[T]he professors are appealing a US District Court’s dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a New York State Law—the ‘Taylor Law’— that grants PSC the right to continue representing the professors in collective bargaining even though they are no longer members of it.”

December 14, 2022: “[T]he same people who referred to Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state are negotiating the salary and working conditions of Jewish professors at CUNY. Absurd? I thought so, too, and several professors joined me in suing the union, CUNY, and the state of New York to escape the union for good.”

Antisemitism Runs Amok at CUNY as
Teachers Fight for Janus Rights

National Review

I’m Stuck With an
Anti-Semitic Labor Union

The Wall Street Journal

September 19, 2022: “The charge that palpable antisemitism is an emerging fact of life in the Big Apple – locus of the world’s highest concentration of Jews outside of Israel – might strike many as hyperbole or even paranoia. But as a recent Tablet article convincingly declares, ‘It’s Open Season on Jews in New York City.’”

January 20, 2022:“[U]nion officials—who speak for me under state law—issued a resolution I, and many of my colleagues, view as anti-Semitic. Now I have a choice: Disrupt my life and damage my career again or rely on the constitutional protections that set America apart from most other countries on earth. I’m done running.”

NYC profs see Supreme Court as ‘only hope’ in fight with ‘antisemitic’ teachers union

Fox News

January 22, 2024: “The Fairness Center, a nonprofit public interest law firm representing the professors, says that with amendments to the Taylor Law, ‘unions like the PSC are free to treat nonmembers, like these professors, as second-class employees, offering them inferior services compared to members.’”

The Union at the Center of
CUNY’s Antisemitism Problem

The Hill

July 21, 2023: “Unless the courts intervene, PSC officials will remain free to alienate Jews, knowing their only escape from the union is to quit their jobs. Not only that, but public employees across the country who object to their unions’ divisive actions or political stances would similarly remain trapped in unwanted representation.”

CUNY Professors Fighting to Leave Faculty Union File Brief in Second Appeals Court

The Algemeiner

June 7, 2023: “[T]he professors are appealing a US District Court’s dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a New York State Law—the ‘Taylor Law’— that grants PSC the right to continue representing the professors in collective bargaining even though they are no longer members of it.”

Offended by Kanye’s Antisemitism?
Examine Academia, too

Washington Examiner

December 14, 2022: “[T]he same people who referred to Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state are negotiating the salary and working conditions of Jewish professors at CUNY. Absurd? I thought so, too, and several professors joined me in suing the union, CUNY, and the state of New York to escape the union for good.”

Antisemitism Runs Amok at CUNY as
Teachers Fight for Janus Rights

National Review

September 19, 2022: “The charge that palpable antisemitism is an emerging fact of life in the Big Apple – locus of the world’s highest concentration of Jews outside of Israel – might strike many as hyperbole or even paranoia. But as a recent Tablet article convincingly declares, ‘It’s Open Season on Jews in New York City.’”

I’m Stuck With an
Anti-Semitic Labor Union

The Wall Street Journal

January 20, 2022:“[U]nion officials—who speak for me under state law—issued a resolution I, and many of my colleagues, view as anti-Semitic. Now I have a choice: Disrupt my life and damage my career again or rely on the constitutional protections that set America apart from most other countries on earth. I’m done running.”

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