Three residents sued the Anoka-Hennepin School District and the local chapter of Education Minnesota to stop the “illegal subsidy of union political activities through teacher union business leave.”
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Anoka County District Court, the plaintiffs assert that the “Working Agreement” between the district and Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota requires schools to provide teachers with 100 days of paid leave per school year to conduct work for the union.
The union “takes advantage of that agreement” and removes teachers from schools, using them for political activity such as door-knocking and phone-banking for union-backed candidates and causes.
But the union only pays for the cost of a substitute, not the full cost of teachers’ leave and benefits, according to the complaint.
“The cost of a full-time teacher’s salary alone ranges from $227 to $562 per day in 2020. The substitute rate is between $135 and $145 per day,” said a press release from the Upper Midwest Law Center, which is representing the plaintiffs in the case.
The complaint alleges that the arrangement violates Article XI of the Minnesota Constitution, which prevents the state from distributing money from the treasury unless it is appropriated by the Legislature. The constitution also prevents the credit of Minnesota from being “given or loaned to aid any corporation.”
The lawsuit calls the arrangement a violation of the Minnesota Public Employees Labor Relations Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
State courts in New Jersey and Florida have held that “these under-reimbursement arrangements violate state laws,” the complaint says.
“As a taxpayer of District 11, I should never be forced to pay for [Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota’s] political speech. There is no basis for our school district providing workers for AHEM for its favored political activities using our tax dollars. This illegal subsidy has to end,” Dan Huizenga, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement.
The legal action seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the district from “subsidizing union leave” and asks the court to order the union to reimburse the district for all union leave taken by teachers over the last six years.
“Minnesota law is clear: government employers cannot provide benefits to unions without full compensation, and unions cannot force government employers to subsidize union business,” said Upper Midwest Law Center President Doug Seaton. “Just like in New Jersey and Florida, we are confident that the Anoka County District Court will stop this practice and require AHEM and ISD 11 to obey the law in their collective bargaining agreements.”