Federal judge rules against Allentown Symphony musician who refused to pay union dues

The longtime Allentown Symphony Orchestra drummer has lost a federal lawsuit in which he argued the nonprofit and its musicians’ union should be barred from demanding union dues from performers.

Glenn Wilkofsky, the orchestra’s principal timpanist since 2001, stopped paying dues in 2020 and has not been permitted to perform with the symphony since May 2021.

He filed a lawsuit in Aprilarguing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision — which ruled that public sector employees have a First Amendment right not to support a union — should apply to the Allentown Symphony Association because it receives public grants to fund its operations.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Leeson Jr. rejected that argument, saying the association did not qualify as a public sector employer.

Wilkofsky promised to appeal.

“I’m disappointed by this ruling, but I’m not giving up the fight for my constitutional rights,” he said in a statement through The Fairness Center, a Harrisburg law firm that represents opponents of mandatory public sector unions. friendship. “Union officials treated me more like a dollar than a musician. I refuse to be forced to keep my place in the symphony.

In a Morning Call article published in MayWilkofsky said his contributions to the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians were “forced” — whether he supported unionism or not — and noted that the vast majority of the national federation’s political contributions went to Democrats.

He pinned his hopes on Janus against AFSCME, which was heralded as both a major victory for First Amendment rights and a potential death knell for public employee unions, affecting millions of public school teachers, public works workers and other public employees across the country.

“Standing on principle is never easy, especially when it could jeopardize what you love,” he wrote. “For too long I was ‘getting along to get along’ and staying silent about things I knew were wrong, rationalizing my silence as tactical rather than cowardly. As our freedoms are under attack from many sides, I realized I could no longer remain silent.”

An email to the local union was not immediately returned.

Morning Call reporter Daniel Patrick Sheehan can be reached at 610-820-6598 or

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