This summer, the United States Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for unions and the government to compel public employees to pay union dues as condition of their employment.

In other words, according to the Janus v. AFSCME ruling, just because you get hired to work in a a place where a union represents employees, doesn't mean you can be forced to take part in the union and pay its dues.

And right before the ruling, the New Jersey legislature passed a law that said any public employee who authorized dues deductions in the past could only stop that deduction of dues during one 10-day period per year  — depending on when they had originally been hired.

Now comes word a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the state of New Jersey, the New Jersey Education Association and the Township of Ocean Education Association, challenging the constitutionality of that 10 day law.

William Messenger, a staff attorney with the National Right to Work Foundation, said what the 10-day law means is “for 355 to 356 days of every year employees cannot exercise that First Amendment right under Janus. They can only do it under one 10-day period per year.”

He said that’s discriminatory and the restriction must be lifted.

“The idea that for 355 days basically every public employee in New Jersey who authorized dues deduction in the past can’t exercise their First Amendment rights, it’s a very sad state of affairs," Messenger said.

Two New Jersey school teachers, Susan Fischer and Jeanette Speck filed the class action lawsuit, and “the result they seek is for that law to be struck down and for the courts to recognize employees can exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus at any time they like," Messenger said.

He said the NJEA and other unions in other states have been trying to restrict when employees can stop their union dues payroll deductions.

Messenger said he’s hopeful this lawsuit can be settled quickly, because “at the end of the day it’s not about the legal wins or losses, it’s about effectuating individual’s rights to choose , do they want to join and support a union or do they not want to do so.”

Steve Baker, a spokesman for the NJEA declined to be interviewed about the lawsuit, but in an email response he said:

“This is another attack funded by wealthy anti-union groups seeking to undermine the rights of working people to form strong, effective unions," Baker said. "NJEA members will always advocate their profession, their students and for working people in New Jersey. Our members recognize that and are steadfastly committed to this union. We will defend our members against this anti-union attack, and our members will continue working every day to make our New Jersey’s public schools the best in the nation.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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