High School Teacher Sues Pennsylvania Union Over Religious Objector Status

Linda Misja, high school teacher who works in Pennsylvania.
Linda Misja, high school teacher who works in Pennsylvania. | (Photo: Roseanne Martin)

A high school teacher who holds a religious objector status to paying union dues has filed a complaint against a Pennsylvania union demanding a freer hand as to where she can donate her dues.

Linda Misja filed the complaint Thursday in the US District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

While granted the "religious objector" status by the PSEA, Misja takes issue with the union not allowing her to donate to whatever charity she prefers.

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"The funds taken from Ms. Misja's paycheck are her earned income and hers to direct, yet the PSEA's practice, if held to be in accordance with the statute, deprive her of due process and unconstitutionally restrict her ability to direct her funds," reads the complaint.

"Ms. Misja respectfully requests that this Court declare that the PSEA has violated her constitutional and statutory rights and permanently enjoin such violations or, alternatively, declare Pennsylvania's section 575(h) facially unconstitutional in part."

The Fairness Center, a legal group that specializes in representing public sector employees against unions, is representing Misja.

David Osborne, general counsel with the Center, told The Christian Post that his organization came to represent Misja thanks to a previous case of theirs in the Keystone State.

"We connected with Linda after she heard of a similar lawsuit the Fairness Center filed in Pennsylvania last year in Lancaster County court," said Osborne.

"That suit is still pending. At the time, Linda thought she was the only teacher facing this issue with the PSEA, the largest teachers union in the state."

Osborne also told CP that the legal argument of "religious objector" status was "unusual but not unheard of in Pennsylvania and other forced-union states."

"As of last year, the PSEA claimed they had approved 200 religious objectors. There would likely be many more if the option was better known," continued Osborne.

"The union is attempting to force Linda to donate that money to the charities they approve of, not the ones she supports. The union uses unwritten and arbitrary 'policies' to rule out charities with which it disagrees, which is counter to the law and violates Linda's First Amendment rights."

Wythe Keever, assistant communications director with the PSEA, provided CP with a 4-page list of the charities that the union allows such directed dues to go to.

The diverse array included groups like the American Heart Association, Boy Scouts of America, Operation Smile, Wounded Warrior Project, various libraries, other charities, and local chapters of groups including United Way, YMCA, and Habitat for Humanity.

Keever told CP that the "list of acceptable charities is also non-exclusive" and "objectors such as Ms. Misja can propose other charities" as possibilities.

"PSEA and its affiliates have and continue to provide reasonable accommodation to objectors such as Ms. Misja, but the Pennsylvania law also states the charity receiving the fair share fee must be mutually agreed upon by the objector and the exclusive bargaining agent," said Keever.

"In this case, Ms. Misja and PSEA have not mutually agreed upon the charity to receive the fair share fee. PSEA remains willing to work with Ms. Misja to identify another charity to receive the fair share fee."

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