We now have incontrovertible confirmation that the NJEA is trying to keep teachers in the dark about their 1st Amendment rights. A recent New Jersey Monitor report described how the Wayne Education Association (WEA) is pushing the NJ Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to force the Wayne School District to block Sunlight’s emails informing teachers of their 1st Amendment right to stop paying dues to the NJEA.
What is the NJEA afraid of? Are they afraid that if teachers know their rights, they might choose to keep $1,500 a year for themselves? But if NJEA membership were as beneficial to teachers as the NJEA claims, why would the NJEA fear that? The underlying message in all of this is that it’s not, and the NJEA knows it.
As our readers know, Sunlight has been engaged in a campaign to inform teachers that the Supreme Court ruled that they are free to stop paying dues and leave the NJEA. Their jobs, salaries, health benefits and pensions would all be unaffected.
We also have informed teachers of the facts of how their highest-in-the-nation dues are spent: on excessive pay for NJEA leadership; on excessive political spending by NJEA leadership; on NJEA President Sean Spiller’s personal political career. From the feedback we have received, we have found that teachers have been kept in the dark about these facts, and when they find out, they’re not happy. No wonder NJEA leadership wants to keep them in the dark.
In its complaint, the WEA admits this. The report states: the WEA claims Sunlight’s emails “caused declines in membership” — that is, the NJEA’s dues revenues. The WEA then resorts to making false claims in an attempt to get PERC censor Sunlight’s emails. The WEA falsely claims the emails were “political advocacy.” But Sunlight is a 501(c)(3) and does not engage in political advocacy. We have never advocated for the passage of any legislation or local resolution. We have never supported a candidate or political party. We are a research organization whose goal is to educate New Jersey citizens and teachers. We hope — and expect — that PERC will see through this false claim.
Finally, the report notes that PERC recognizes that there are constitutional issues involved that PERC is ill-equipped to resolve and would be better suited for a court. We agree. Educating teachers about their 1st Amendment rights surely must implicate constitutional issues, especially since the Supreme Court ruled on union membership in its 2018 Janus case. How would it be proper for a school district — a governmental entity — to censor communications to teachers about their constitutional rights in order to protect a private organization’s dues revenues?
And while we’re at it, we imagine that a PERC ruling that forces the Wayne School District to censor Sunlight’s emails would make for an excellent legal case against the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act’s provisions that prohibit a school district of informing teachers of their 1st Amendment rights. We believe these provisions run afoul of the Janus decision, and an adverse PERC ruling should provide a concrete application of the law that can be tested in court.
But one thing is absolutely certain: there can be no dispute that NJEA leadership wants to keep teachers in the dark about their 1st Amendment rights. How does that benefit teachers? It doesn’t. It benefits the NJEA.