Little is more un-American than forcing an individual to pay to support political causes that they do not align with. But that is exactly what happened to a Pennsylvania musician, and he is engaged in a noble effort to challenge this injustice.
Timpanist Glen Wilkofsky with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra had little interaction with his union, the American Federation of Musicians Local 45, before the coronavirus pandemic. It was in 2020, however, when orchestra members did not draw a salary due to government-imposed lockdowns.
The union, which represents U.S. and Canadian musicians, still expected their dues to be paid on time. And its PAC donated 100% of its contributions to Democrats in the 2019-20 election cycle.
Meanwhile, Wilkofsky was far from pleased with vaccination mandates that interfered with he and his colleagues’ ability to resume a normal performance schedule. He also noted that union leaders through his support gave their full backing to oppressive government initiatives.
Pennsylvania Musician Opposed To Funding Lefty Causes Challenges Forced Unionization. Glen Wilkofsky’s union dues were paying for political activism he did not support. https://t.co/lHu8obHzvK
— Paul Phillips (@carolinastreet) March 9, 2023
The musician told an interviewer that his union membership was “forced on me as a condition of my employment.” Over time, however, he found that the union was “very politically active and does not really represent my interests.”
In fact, he observed that the partisan group supported one political party “nearly 100% of the time” and spent virtually “0% of their time representing musicians.”
But when the 20-year veteran of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra decided the union did not deserve his financial support, the union suspended him. The orchestra informed him that his job was in jeopardy if he did not make amends with the union leadership.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 in Janus v. AFSCME that union requirements for public employees violate their First Amendment rights.
The question, in this case, is if the Allentown Symphony is a public employer, and is the musicians’ union a public entity?
Local 45 suspended his membership in 2021 and expelled him months later. The symphony indicated it may suspend Wilkofsky, but the national nonprofit Fairness Center filed suit on his behalf in April 2022.
While a U.S. District judge ruled against Wilkofsky in August, the Fairness Center law firm filed a new brief in January and the ruling is now on appeal. It bears close watching to determine if the plaintiff can be forced to financially support leftist causes he does not agree with.