Ladley v. PSEA

CASE SUMMARY

Jane Ladley is a 25-year veteran of the Pennsylvania public school system. She retired from Avon Grove School District in Chester County in 2014, not long after the district went “agency shop,” requiring all teachers to either join the teachers unions or pay a lesser “fair share fee.”

Jane’s status as a religious objector to the union was accepted by the PSEA in 2013 and her money, rather than funding her chosen charity, has been held in escrow since then.

Initially, Jane asked the PSEA to send her money to a scholarship fund for high school seniors interested in studying the United States Constitution. The scholarship fund was sponsored by an admittedly political organization.

Unbeknownst to Jane, the PSEA has an internal “policy” under which any charity that the PSEA labels “political” will be rejected out of hand.  On that basis, the PSEA rejected Jane’s choice of charity.  Despite Jane’s sincere desire to contribute to the scholarship fund, she chose an alternate charity, the Constitutional Organization of Liberty (“COOL”), providing educational materials on the Constitution and America’s history. The PSEA refused to respond to Jane’s proposed solution.

Jane retired, but her money—which should go to a charity—is still sitting in escrow, awaiting action by the PSEA.

“They are telling me which groups I have to choose,” Jane remarked. “It’s a wrong that needs to be righted. I’m doing this on principle and for the other teachers coming up through the ranks, so that they have these options available to them.”

Jane Ladley and Christopher Meier v. Pennsylvania State Education Association

The Fairness Center represents schoolteachers Jane Ladley and Chris Meier, the targets of an illegal public union scheme to block nonunion employees from sending money to certain charities and to funnel money to the union’s favorite private charities.

Ms. Ladley recently retired after teaching for 25 years, most recently at Penn London Elementary School in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Meier has taught AP Economics and AP History courses at Penn Manor High School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for the last ten years.  Neither Ms. Ladley nor Mr. Meier are members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (“PSEA”), and neither Ms. Ladley nor Mr. Meier have paid a fee for its representation—which they do not want. But recently, the PSEA secured, in separate agreements with their respective school districts, the contractual authority to extract nonmember fees from teachers like Ms. Ladley and Mr. Meier. Ms. Ladley and Mr. Meier objected to payment of the fees on religious grounds.

As religious objectors to union membership and to payment of union fees, Ms. Ladley and Mr. Meier are entitled to certain legal protections, including the opportunity to redirect their fee—otherwise owed to the union—to a charitable organization. For this purpose, both Ms. Ladley and Mr. Meier selected IRS-approved charities; Ms. Ladley selected a local educational organization, and Mr. Meier selected a national charity providing free legal advice and representation to teachers like himself. Under the law, their money is automatically withheld and deposited into a separate account while the PSEA processes the selection.

Now, the PSEA is telling Ms. Ladley and Mr. Meier that it has a “policy” against allowing religious objectors to send their money to charities that they choose. According to the PSEA, Ms. Ladley’s educational charity was too “political,” and Mr. Meier’s charity was a “conflict of interest” because it represented teachers in separate, unrelated lawsuits against the PSEA.

Unfortunately, the PSEA’s policy also takes advantage of a loophole in the law to ensure that Ms. Ladley and Mr. Meier have no voice in this matter. The statute protecting religious objectors from having to pay dues or fees to the union requires that the charity selected by the objector be “agreed upon” by the union. But the law does not institute a procedure or deadline for reaching agreement with the union.

The PSEA is content to watch Ms. Ladley’s and Mr. Meier’s money automatically accrue in an interest-bearing escrow account while it waits for them to give in.

Ms. Ladley and Mr. Meier are filing suit to expose the policy, to ask that the court declare the PSEA’s internal policy illegal, and to stop the PSEA from using the policy to indefinitely hold their money.

The case is currently before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

 
 
 

Press Resources

September 15, 2014