The Promise of Janus

On October 25, CIR President Terry Pell helped take the fight for teacher freedom to the Pennsylvania state legislature.  He testified in support of proposed legislation designed to implement the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Janus v. AFSCME along with former Secretary of Education William Bennett (now Chairman of “Conservative Leaders for Education”) and State Policy Network expert Vincent Vernuccio

Pennsylvania is one of several states that is considering a package of legislation designed to protect the right of public employees to decide for themselves whether to support their union without fear or coercion.

The proposed legislation prohibits a union from collecting dues from existing or new members until an employee has affirmatively consented to provide such support after being informed of the constitutional right to decline membership.  The legislation prohibits the use of pressure tactics, such as mandatory, closed-door meetings, contact at home, or public disclosure of an employee’s membership status.

William J. Bennett

The legislation also guarantees the right of any employee to leave a public union at any time by mailing a post marked letter.  It prohibits the use of “maintenance of membership” requirements, which typically require a departed member to continue paying dues until the next contract anniversary date.

The legislation deletes numerous provisions of current Pennsylvania law that Janus made unconstitutional.  If passed, the bill will save public employees (and the state) the cost of expensive of lawsuits otherwise needed to remove these outmoded provisions. As Pell commented, “this bill is designed to make Pennsylvania law litigation proof.”

Vincent Vernuccio

The Pennsylvania effort is designed to help unleash a new era of teacher professionalism by freeing teachers from the labor union model of adversarial relations that has hobbled educational practice for decades.  As Secretary Bennett testified, “at its core, Janus is all about individual control and individual responsibility.  Not coincidentally, those are also the core concepts of professionalism.”

Thanks to Janus, teachers are now free to take charge of their profession in order to achieve the best results for every student. Secretary Bennett contrasted the Janus model of individual control with the “far-too-often current focus on fighting over who gets the money for every student or how to “win” the next round of bargaining.”

Achieving the potential of Janus requires choices at every level, particularly by state legislators.  Legislation to clear away outmoded and now unconstitutional provisions of state law and replace them with provisions that enable individual teachers to step and take charge of their profession is a high and immediate priority.

You can read testimony here (Bennett, Pell, Vernuccio).