Six City University of New York (CUNY) professors (Michael Goldstein, Avraham Goldstein, Mitchell Langbert, Maria Pagano, Jeffrey Law and Frimette Kass-Shraibman) have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the union representing CUNY’s faculty and staff citing “anti-Semitic” actions and a violation of their first amendment rights.

With this lawsuit against the Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY), they hope to overturn New York State’s “Public Employees Fair Employment Act” that allows public sector workers the legal right to representation and collective bargaining.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit also names New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and New York Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) Chairman John Wirenius.
According to Lax, in a separate case, he had already gotten a letter of determination from the Equal Employment Opportunity Communion. According to the complaint, “CUNY and PSC leaders discriminated against him, retaliated against him, and subjected him to a hostile work environment on the basis of religion.” Prof. Lax “has felt marginalized and ostracized by PSC because the union has made it clear that Jews who support the
Jewish homeland, the State of Israel, are not welcome.”

Last June, PSC-CUNY passed a resolution supporting Palestine. In August, CUNY President James Davis said in response to the resolution, “We opposed the original resolution forwarded by committees to the Delegate Assembly, and that we also voted against the resolution that passed. We each found the resolution as adopted problematic for our own reasons, but together we believe that any position the union develops on Israel and Palestine should be preceded by conversation among the members in our chapters.”

The six-member lawsuit also cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME that ruled forcing employees to fund union activities to keep their jobs was a violation of their first amendment rights.

“Going as far back as the 1944 Steele v. Louisville & Nashville Railway Co. decision, the Supreme Court has recognized that union bosses misuse their government-granted monopoly bargaining powers to take offensive positions that are directly contrary to the interests of many employees who are forced under a union’s so-called ‘representation’ against their will,” stated National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.

All six professors have resigned their union memberships and have attempted to cut off dues.

Frank Clark, PSC-CUNY spokesperson, said that the lawsuit was a waste of time.

“This meritless lawsuit, brought by faculty who are not members of our union and funded by the notoriously right-wing National Right to Work Legal Foundation, is just another attempt to erode the power of organized labor to fight for better pay and working conditions and a more just society. PSC members—and non-member free-riders such as the plaintiffs—have good health insurance, benefits, due-process rights, contractual raises and salary steps because of the union’s contract negotiations. The ‘Right to Work’ agenda is rooted in white supremacy; it will find little purchase at CUNY, the nation’s largest, most diverse urban university system.”

Clark said that PSC members’ feelings about Israel and Palestine have been distorted in service of an “anti-union agenda.”

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