StoryBitsy Galaska

This summer the Supreme Court will render a decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a case that could have an enormous impact for every government worker across Pennsylvania, including teachers like me.

Twelve years ago, I was hired as a librarian and technology teacher in the Twin Valley School District (outside of Reading).

Like most any educator, I was curious how my new workplace operated and, in particular, the role of our union. Always one to take an active role, I volunteered to serve as our school's union representative.

But after six active years of working within my union, my view of it had soured. I came to the conclusion that the union wasn't representing me the way I thought it should and, despite my best efforts, I wasn't able to bring about the change that I had hoped. I particularly did not like the adversarial relationship that existed between teachers and the administration. As a result, I resigned my membership.

Six years have passed since I resigned my union membership, yet, I am forced to pay fees to the union as a condition of my employment. Why? Because even though I am no longer a union member, the law requires me to pay so-called "fair share fees" that fund union activities.

This compulsory payment, automatically withdrawn from my paychecks just like taxes, amounts to about $500 each year. So, instead of a day with the grandkids at Hershey Park or a Phillies game, I'm paying for representation that I don't even want.

The old thinking behind these forced union fees is that public employees like me benefit from collective bargaining, but I contend that I don't want to be a part of their joint agreement. I don't necessarily agree with my union's negotiating principles or tactics, and, because of that, I should not be compelled to pay for or be bound by their contracts.

The union believes I should pay union fees lest I benefit as a "free rider." In reality, though, I never asked for this representation—nor do I want it. I'm not a free rider, I'm a forced rider.

This is why I joined with three other Pennsylvania educators in a lawsuit to reject these mandatory union fees. My case, just like Janus v. AFSCME, is about the right of public employees to decide whether to fund an organization with which they disagree.

The system now is collusion between the state and special interests - pure and simple

While my case is currently on hold, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on this same issue in the Janus case. As a public school educator who will be impacted by any changes, I'm hopeful the Court will rule in favor of my right to choose whether to fund a union.

I entered my field with a singular goal in mind: to help students grow and learn in an environment where everyone feels welcome. I love my job, my students, and my community. I want to keep serving them, but don't want to pay mandatory union fees. I shouldn't have to choose between the two.

See Hartnett v. PSEA