Greg Hartnett passionately believes in giving to others. A teacher in Pennsylvania’s Homer-Center School District, the father of five has taught art for two decades and devoted 14 years of his life to working with individuals with developmental disabilities.
But as much as he believes in giving, there is one thing in his life that he jealously guards for himself: his rights as an American citizen.
“My Constitutional rights do not end when I set foot in the classroom,” he says. “I should not be forced to fund a private, politically-active organization just to do what I love.”
“I should not be forced to fund a private, politically-active organization just to do what I love.”
That politically-active organization? The Pennsylvania State Education Association – a teacher’s union.
Greg had been skeptical of the PSEA pretty much from the moment he was forced to join. The heavy-handed indoctrination of new teachers, the hard core left-wing union literature – printed with his forced dues, which bashed many of the conservative positions and politicians Greg supported, all rubbed him the wrong way.
“When our supposedly ‘non-partisan’ union president wore her ‘Educators for Obama’ shirt to a meeting, that was the last straw.”
Greg is the lead plaintiff in Hartnett et. al. v. Pennsylvania State Education Association, a lawsuit that seeks to end the practice of forcing workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment. The practice is made worse by the fact that employee’s dues fund political activities and politicians that Greg and other teachers do not.
Even worse, the forced dues also support an attitude toward the teaching profession that many like Greg find essentially contradictory to their own beliefs.
“I work in a very small district that was experiencing real hardship,” he says. “There was grave concern the teachers would be furloughed and rumors of consolidation with another school district.” Hopeful to preserve the jobs of he and his colleagues, Greg voiced concerns about whether it was responsible for teachers to be receiving a planned pay raise at the time.
His concerns, however, fell on deaf ears with his union which made it clear that, from its self-serving perspective, it would rather see taxes raised or the district fail than work toward a compromise that, in the long run, would benefit all.
“That’s coercion. That’s immoral.”
“Even though union leaders violate my beliefs, I must either give them a cut of my paycheck or lose my job. That’s coercion,” Greg says. “That’s immoral. I hope this lawsuit helps the court recognize it’s also unconstitutional.”