A St. Cloud State University political science professor filed a federal lawsuit in St. Paul Friday alleging that forcing her to pay union dues violates her First Amendment rights in the wake of a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kathleen Uradnik — who lists her expertise as American government, law, American political thought, constitutional law and civil rights — sued the Inter Faculty Organization (the union representing faculty members), St. Cloud State and the trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
Uradnik, a tenured professor, is not a member of the union, but must pay dues under Minnesota law and submit to its exclusive representation with the university. She seeks a court order declaring that forcing her to submit to union representation violates her rights, and she wants a judgment barring discrimination against nonunion faculty. She also seeks attorneys’ fees and costs.
St. Cloud State spokesman Adam Hammer could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys with the Buckeye Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit entity based in Columbus, Ohio, which advocates for what it calls free market public policies in the states, and by attorneys with the Washington, D.C., law firm of BakerHostetler. Danyll W. Foix, a lawyer with BakerHostetler, declined to comment Friday, citing his law firm’s policies.
The Buckeye Institute has launched a campaign called “Workers Choose” to let employees know about a Supreme Court decision issued June 27 that its says “recognized the right of public employees to choose whether to financially support their union.”
The institute says that the decision in Janus v. the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees “provided good news for all teachers and other public employees who like their unions and wish to maintain their membership in them while nonetheless allowing those who believe that their unions do not meet their personal needs to stop paying compulsory fees to their unions.”
Uradnik declined to comment Friday. She received a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1989, followed by a doctorate from the University of California-Berkeley in 1998.
According to the lawsuit, the Janus decision makes clear that compelling public employees to pay union dues violates their rights of free speech and association under the First Amendment to the Constitution. In addition, the suit says, the defendants in her case have negotiated special preferences for union members in matters related to obtaining tenure and promotions.
Uradnik says in her lawsuit that the union controls faculty appointments to nearly all university search committees, from chancellor down to university presidents and lower-level administrators. Serving on one of those committees is typically required for advancement, the suit says.
“The Union generally excludes non-Union members from membership on these committees and leaves committee seats vacant when there are not enough Union faculty members willing to serve,” the suit says. “Exclusion from committee service also denies nonunion faculty members the ability to associate and serve with their administrators and colleagues in an ongoing professional capacity.”
In the lawsuit, Uradnik says that she wants to serve on certain committees and has volunteered repeatedly to do so, but the union won’t give its consent because she is not a member. She acknowledges that she disagrees with the union on many issues, including the terms and conditions of employment and matters related to university governance.
Senior Judge Paul Magnuson was assigned to Uradnik’s lawsuit.