The U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, which outlawed mandatory “fair share” fees for Pennsylvania public employees, is almost a year old, but many government workers still don’t know their new rights.
That’s why on May 16, 2019, Free to Teach, a project of Americans for Fair Treatment, mailed the informative booklet “Knowing Your Rights and Union Alternatives” to 4,000 Pa. school board members.
“The fundamental problem in the public sector before Janus was that workers never got a choice about paying a union,” said Keith Williams, AFFT’s Pennsylvania Director of Outreach and former 21-year public school teacher. “Now that Janus gives workers that choice, there’s another problem—they still don’t know all their options. We produced and distributed these booklets to educate, equip, and empower public servants to act on their rights.”
As Indiana County teacher Greg Hartnett testified at the state capitol last October, he had heard absolutely nothing about the Janus decision in his school district. Numerous members of the Free to Teach network have reported the same.
In some cases, government workers receive the opposite of notification. That’s what happened to John Kabler, a Dauphin County liquor store clerk whose union, UFCW, told him in writing that union membership was a condition of employment.
“To prevent dishonesty and outright misinformation from the big state and national unions, we need Employee Rights Notification,” Williams said. “In addition, union locals should be empowered to act in the interests of their teachers and community.
Police read Miranda rights to those being arrested. The state notifies employees about workman’s compensation and whistleblower hotlines.”
“Shouldn’t we notify teachers about their union association options?”
AFFT also supports the Employee Rights Notification Act (HB 785), sponsored by state Rep. Kate Klunk in March. The bill will ensure that teachers and other government workers in Pennsylvania are informed of their rights granted under the Supreme Court’s Janus decision last year. HB 785 has already advanced out of the House Labor and Industry Committee, and is likely to come up for consideration during the present legislative session.
“In the meantime, we hope these booklets will provide school board members with the information they need to enact a plan for notification in their own school districts. As a former 21-year teacher myself, I know that being informed about my rights is an important matter.”
Keith Williams is available for comment on the contents of the “Knowing Your Rights and Union Alternatives” booklet, the significance of HB 785, and Pennsylvania government workers’ rights.
Americans for Fair Treatment is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, equip, and empower public sector employees to receive fair treatment from unions. The organization aids public sector workers through its Free to Teach and Free to Serve projects, supporting public school teachers and healthcare, municipal, and uniformed services employees respectively.