Updated: 6:30 p.m. | Posted: 2:10 p.m.
A St. Cloud State University professor has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that her First Amendment rights are being violated because she's represented by a union with whom she disagrees.
Kathleen Uradnik, a political science professor, sued St. Cloud State, the Inter Faculty Organization and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system's board of trustees.
The lawsuit, filed last month, follows the U.S. Supreme Court's Janus decision, which bars public sector unions from forcing non-union members to pay "fair share" fees.
Uradnik is a tenured professor who is not a union member, said Robert Alt, president and CEO of the Buckeye Institute, a Ohio-based conservative think tank representing Uradnik.
The lawsuit argues that designating the union as the employees' exclusive representative violates Uradnik's free speech rights because she has no choice whether to support the union's actions, even if she disagrees with them.
In the Janus decision, the Supreme Court "strongly hinted that exclusive representation, from a First Amendment standpoint, rests on very shaky ground," Alt said.
"In no other context would we permit an individual to be forced to speak or associate with someone with whom they disagreed," he said.
Uradnik also claims that St. Cloud State treats non-union faculty members as second class by barring them from serving on committees. Alt said that hurts their chances of obtaining tenure and earning promotions.
"This obviously ends up harming Professor Uradnik in terms of denying her the opportunity to fully participate in the university, as any professor would be able to otherwise," he said.
Brent Jeffers, president of the Inter Faculty Organization, said in a statement that the lawsuit "is part of a nationally coordinated strategy by powerful forces aiming to destroy collective bargaining.
"It is a direct attack on our shared values and collective voice. United, we are powerful advocates — and our solidarity threatens the national anti-labor organizations behind these attacks. Our members know that a strong faculty union is vital to the success of our students and communities. In the face of these attacks, we stand united and will continue our mission of providing an extraordinary education that is accessible and affordable for all."
St. Cloud State spokesman Adam Hammer said the university could not comment on pending litigation.