ShareThis Page

Pennsylvania teachers sue union over nonmember fee donations

| Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, 10:48 p.m.

Two Pennsylvania teachers sued the state's largest teaching union on Thursday, claiming the union overstepped its authority in denying teachers the ability to select charities that receive donations of nonmember fees.

Filed in Lancaster County court, the suit alleges the Pennsylvania State Education Association holds in escrow dues from nonmembers who object to joining the union.

By state law, objectors may contribute the equivalent of the fair share fees — annual alternative fees paid in lieu of membership dues — to a non-religious charity approved by the Internal Revenue Service.

Plaintiffs Chris Meier, 35, of Lancaster County and Jane Ladley, 61, of Chester County argued that PSEA unfairly bottlenecked their requests.

“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,” Ladley said.

Spokesman David Broderic said PSEA routinely gets about 200 people who opt out of membership.

“Of those 200, about five people make requests that go under review because their organizations are found to have some religious connection or who possess an obvious conflict of interest,” he said. “The process usually doesn't take long.”

Ladley contends otherwise.

She chose to send her $435.14 first to the Sustainable Freedom Scholarship and second to the Constitutional Organization of Liberty. She was rejected.

Meier sent the same amount in 2013 and 2014 to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which Broderic said is a conflict of interest because the group frequently enters into litigation against PSEA.

“That's exactly the point,” said Nate Bohlander, assistant general counsel with the free market nonprofit The Fairness Center, which represents the teachers. “Their charities meet the one sole requirement — that they be nonreligious — but they say Ms. Ladley's is too political and Mr. Meier's is a conflict of interest. They may not like it, but they shouldn't stand in the way of their rights.”

At the very least, Bohlander said, he hopes the lawsuit spurs discussion of “a flawed law.”

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.