CUNY professor blames faculty for students protesting at vigil mourning slain Israelis
CUNY law professor Jeff Lax joined FOX & Friends to discuss why he blames professors and school faculty for indoctrinating students as anti-Israel protests sweep campuses nationwide.
A group of City University of New York (CUNY) professors are suing a teachers union they say promotes antisemitism, waging a legal battle in which they believe the Supreme Court could be their “only hope.”
New York State law requires that even if one chooses to leave a teachers union, they still have to take part in funding the union’s collective bargaining unit. That unit effectively controls pay raises, benefits, leave and other policies both for union and nonunion faculty.
In 2021, one such teachers union, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (PSC), adopted a “Resolution in Support of the Palestinian People” which the group of six professors viewed as antisemitic, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. These professors chose to then resign from the union, but under state law are still required to affiliate with and be represented in bargaining by that same union.
“My family and I suffered severe anti-Semitic harassment and persecution at the hands of the Soviet Union for over fifteen years,” professor of mathematics Avraham Goldstein said in a statement. “I hoped it was all in my past. But now I am forced to associate with a union that makes anti-Semitic political statements in my name without my permission or consent.”
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CUNY Professor Avraham Goldstein is one of six professors challenging New York’s law that forces him to be represented by a union. (Credit: The Fairness Center)
The Supreme Court in 2018 issued a decision in a case called Janus v. AFSCME, which said nonmember public employees could not be forced to pay fees to a union, as doing so would violate their First Amendment rights.
But right before the high court decided Janus, New York amended what’s known as the Taylor Law – the law governing public-sector collective bargaining in the state – to reduce the duties public-sector unions owed to nonmembers.
Prior to the Taylor law, unions were required to fairly represent both members and nonmembers.
The Fairness Center, a nonprofit public interest law firm representing the professors, says that with amendments to the Taylor Law, “unions like the PSC are free to treat nonmembers, like these professors, as second-class employees, offering them inferior services compared to members.”
“Plaintiffs’ forced inclusion in their bargaining unit does a disservice to them and causes them to be disadvantaged in their terms and conditions of employment and in their relations with their fellow employees and the general public,” the professors’ brief states.
The professors, all but one of whom are Jewish, are suing the union, the university and the city, citing the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“[T]he ongoing deprivation of rights… caused by state statutes and Defendants’ contracts, policies, and practices that designate PSC as Plaintiffs’ exclusive bargaining representative with their Employer, force Plaintiffs into a defined bargaining unit with others who do not share the same interests, and require some Plaintiffs to continue to financially subsidize PSC’s speech even though they have resigned their membership in the union,” the legal filing reads.
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A protester stomps on an Israeli flag during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Midtown Manhattan on Nov. 2, 2023, outside the CUNY chancellor’s office. (Julia Bonavita/Fox News Digital)
“PSC’s designation as exclusive bargaining representative and Plaintiffs’ mandatory inclusion in a bargaining unit violate Plaintiffs’ speech, petitioning, and associational rights under the First Amendment,” it continues.
The case was filed in a district court in 2022. In November of last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case, and is expected to issue an opinion in the coming weeks. If it doesn’t go their way, the professors say they will appeal their case to the Supreme Court.
“I think our only hope is the U.S. Supreme Court,” Professor Jeffrey Lax told Fox News Digital in an interview.
“And my message would be to the Supreme Court… we’re not just trying to take a position that’s different than the union’s. We’re not just saying that the union’s views towards Jewish people are abhorrent to us. That’s not why we’re saying we want to leave this union,” said Lax.
Lax, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, said he believes the antisemitic underpinnings of the union are based on Marxist teachings, to which members of the union subscribe.
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The Fairness Center is representing six CUNY professors fighting their teachers union. (Credit: The Fairness Center)
Lax said he is “not surprised” to see the uptick in antisemitic activism on college campuses following the devastating attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 carried out by Hamas terrorists, because antisemitic ideology has been simmering on campuses for years. And he says the unions are in part to blame, promoting anti-Israel demonstrations on campus.
“These unions have almost limitless funds. They’re not using it to bargain, they’re not using it to help their employees’ better salaries or working conditions… they’re doing it for political and ideological gain and to indoctrinate students.” Lax said.
Returning a request for comment Friday, a spokesperson for the union told Fox News Digital in an emailed statement that “[t]he Goldstein lawsuit is meritless.”
“It has been brought by members of the CUNY faculty who are not members of the PSC and who are funded by the anti-union National Right to Work Legal Foundation in another attempt to eliminate unions,” the statement reads. “Representing every worker in a shop is fundamental to a union’s power. It’s what makes the workers’ power collective and gives them the combined strength to win better pay and working conditions.”
“The core question of the suit has been answered,” the statement added.
The resolution at the center of the suit adopted by the union in 2021 termed “the continued subjection of Palestinians to the state-supported displacement, occupation, and use of lethal force by Israel,” and required chapter-level discussion of possible support by PSC for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – or BDS – movement.
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Lax said that while “it is true the union’s opinion about Jewish people, and Zionism and Zionist Jews are abhorrent to us,” that’s not the main crux of his case.
“The main thing is that by forcing us to be part of the bargaining unit, they force us to allow them to bargain for our working conditions, and they don’t care about the pervasive antisemitism that we’re all seeing that’s going on right now at universities across the country, and it is the worst at my university,” he said.
Brianna Herlihy is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.