Pennsylvania musician files suit related to Janus


Musician Glen Wilkofsky sued the American Federation of Musicians, Local 45, and the Allentown Symphony Association on April 11, alleging that the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision should apply to symphony association employees. Depending on the outcome of the case, it could have implications for employees of other grant-receiving organizations who bargain under state public employment law.    

Parties to the suit

The plaintiff is Glen Wilkofsky, who joined the Allentown Symphony Orchestra as principal timpanist in 2001. Attorneys from The Fairness Center, which describes itself as “a nonprofit, public interest law firm that provides free legal services to those hurt by public-sector union officials,” represent Wilkofsky.   

The defendants are the American Federation of Musicians, Local 45, and the Allentown Symphony Association.

About the lawsuit

Wilkofsky filed his complaint on April 11, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. According to the complaint, Wilkofsky is a tenured employee of the Allentown Symphony Association and became a member of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 45, in 2001.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board certified the union under Pennsylvania’s Public Employe Relations Act (PERA) as the exclusive representative for certain Allentown Symphony Association employees. According to Wilkofsky’s lawyers, “Under PERA, a ‘public employer’ includes ‘any nonprofit organization or institution and any charitable, religious, scientific, literary, recreational, health, educational or welfare institution receiving grants or appropriations from local, State or Federal governments.’” 

According to the complaint, Wilkofsky “has chosen not to financially support the Union since approximately January 2020.”

The union suspended Wilkofsky in May 2021, and he was subsequently expelled. Since then, he has not been allowed to participate in orchestra performances. The symphony association says Wilkofsky will not be allowed to perform unless he rejoins the union and pays dues and that he may be terminated if he does not meet the requirements of his tenure. 

Wilkofsky’s lawyers say the symphony association and union are violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

According to The Morning Call’s Peter Hall, “Bethlehem labor attorney David Deratzian said the case has the potential to affect many arts organizations that receive public funding if they have employees who are unionized under the state public employees labor law. Deratzian said the suit is clearly a test case and could end up before the Supreme Court.” 

Hall quoted Fairness Center president Nathan McGrath: “Our client’s goal is to make sure that Janus is expanded to all of the bargaining units that are covered by the Supreme Court decision. … The principle is that our client’s First Amendment right is protected — that he’s not compelled to be a part of and financially support a union he disagrees with.” 

According to Hall, “Symphony Executive Director Al Jacobsen said the association has no comment. He confirmed that the symphony does receive public funding but could not say what portion of the organization’s revenue is public because COVID relief payments in the last two years have increased the amount of public money it has received.” 

The case name and number are Wilkofsky v. American Federation of Musicians, Local 45 et al. (5:22-cv-01424).  

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 139 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.

  • California AB2497: This bill would require state higher education employers to distribute union membership authorization forms to new employees during the orientation process and return completed forms to the exclusive representative.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee hearing held April 20.  
  • California SB931: This bill would allow a union to bring a claim before the Public Employment Relations Board against a public employer allegedly in violation of California Government Code Section 3550 and sets civil penalties for violations. Section 3550 prohibits public employers from discouraging union membership. 
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held April 19. Committee recommends “do pass as amended” and send back to Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • California SB1313: This bill would prohibit Los Angeles County from discriminating against union members by limiting employee health benefits.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held April 19. Committee recommends “do pass as amended” and send back to Senate Appropriations Committee.  
  • California SB1406: This bill would allow unions representing excluded state employees to request arbitration with the Department of Human Resources in certain circumstances.  
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held April 19. Committee recommends “do pass.” Bill sent back to Senate Appropriations Committee with the recommendation, “to consent calendar.”.  
  • Connecticut SB00209: This bill would recognize probate court employees as state employees for collective bargaining purposes.  
    • Introduced by the Senate Labor and Public Employees Committee.
    • Referred to Senate Appropriations Committee April 19.