An economics professor at the University of Maine in Machias who sued the UMaine system has had his suit tossed out by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jonathan Reisman — an active member of Maine's Republican party — resigned his membership in the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine because he says the union actively supported causes and candidates with which he disagrees.
Reisman is represented in his suit by Robert Alt, who argued that the union's representation violates Reisman's first amendment rights because it associates him with that political activity and because, after resigning, Reisman had no right to file a grievance without going through the union.
“The union, as a matter of state law, speaks for him,” Alt says. “He has no right to speak on his behalf, he has to speak through the union on all questions of collective bargaining and grievances.”
Alt is President and CEO of the Ohio-based Buckeye Institute, a think tank that says it is committed to "individual liberty, free enterprise, personal responsibility, and limited government."
Reisman's case is part of a larger campaign by the organization to limit public employee unions. Alt says he plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We've been looking to ultimately get relief for our clients and, ultimately, it's going to take the Supreme Court answering this question so there's clarity on the law throughout the country,” he says.
In its decision, the Boston appeals court said the union isn't designated as Reisman's sole representative, as he contends, and, in fact, the law specifically says that an employee can present grievances to the university system without getting permission from the union.
In a statement, UMaine Director of Public Affairs Dan Demeritt says, "To ensure public accountability to Maine taxpayers, the University System's most important stake in this litigation was to ensure that it follows Maine law. In upholding Judge Levy's decision to dismiss Professor Reisman's complaint against UMS and its codefendants the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals affirms that UMS has done so in managing its relationship with its faculty union."
AFUM President Jim McClymer also issued a statement via email.
"This lawsuit is part of a well-funded plan to reduce people’s rights in the work place, to cripple the ability of people to come together for their collective good. It is an absurdity to claim any union restricts First Amendment rights," he says. "Part of the propaganda purpose of the lawsuit is to continue the lie that member’s dues are used to support political campaigns. Dues do not, have not, and cannot support candidates."