MIDLAND, MI — The next chapter in the Janus v. AFSCME saga is kicking off right here in New Jersey.
On Friday, the Michigan-based Mackinac Center Legal Foundation announced that it had filed three individual lawsuits on behalf of New Jersey public employees whose First Amendment rights are infringed by the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act.
The Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act was adopted by the Democrat legislature and signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy to preempt the landmark Janus decision which freed public employees who opted out of union membership from being forced to pay dues anyway. The deceptively-named Act creates steep barriers to opting out of dues such as limiting the annual opt-out period to the first 10 days after their hiring-anniversary date.
The Mackinac Center’s litigants believe the Act is unconstitutional.
Jody Lutter is a nurse at Essex County Hospital Center in Cedar Grove. Lisa Grega is employed by the College of New Jersey, and Michael Kopies works for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Each employee wanted to leave their union and its onerous obligations behind but were thwarted by the Act.
“I’m simply attempting to exercise my constitutional right to withdraw from my union, and it’s unjust to be told this freedom is somehow limited to a small window of time” said Lutter.
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation say the Act and its restrictions not only run counter to Janus but also the fundamental right of public employees under the First Amendment.
“For 37 years, New Jersey public employees were trusted with the right to resign at any time,” explained Patrick Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. “Then, a 10-day a year resignation limit was imposed to frustrate those employees’ First Amendment rights. This is unconstitutional.”
The relationship between public employee unions and Trenton Democrats has stacked the deck against employees and private sector taxpayers alike. Recently, it was confirmed that the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) donated $2.5 million to a so-called ‘dark money’ group tied to Governor Murphy.