August 21, 2019

New Jersey taxpayers in one of the state’s largest school districts will no longer be forced to pay for private union activities, thanks to a decision handed down this morning by the New Jersey Court of Appeals.

“Today is a great day for New Jersey taxpayers, because this puts an end to an egregious form of government cronyism,” said Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches, who is part of the legal team leading the lawsuit, Rozenblit v. Jersey City School District. “Government resources should be spent for public purposes, not to advance the activities and interests of private individuals and associations. Today’s decision will help ensure that private unions no longer benefit from public dollars.”

New Jersey and Jersey City taxpayers filed the case to challenge release time—a practice that pays government employees to work exclusively for government unions, while still receiving their taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits. While on release time, taxpayer-funded union members engage in political activities, member recruitment, contract negotiations, grievance proceedings against their employer, and other activities that advance the purely private interests of the union.

The case challenged the collective bargaining agreement between the Jersey City School District and the Jersey City Education Association, which required the District to pay the salaries of two full-time teachers who did not spend their time educating Hudson County children, but rather performing full-time union work—costing taxpayers $1.1 million over the course of the agreement. Today, the New Jersey Court of Appeals sided with the taxpayers, saying that this practice meant that these teachers were “act[ing] exclusively as labor leaders,” rather than as “teachers who serve the day-to-day educational needs of the students of the district.” The court ruled that the practice in Jersey City is not authorized by statute, is “against public policy,” and that public funds can no longer be used for release time.   

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