Diamond v. Pa. State Educ. Ass'n

Decision Date08 July 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 3:18-cv-128
Parties Arthur DIAMOND, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, et al., Plaintiffs, v. PENNSYLVANIA STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania

Jonathan F. Mitchell, Pro Hac Vice, Mitchell Law PLLC, Austin, TX, Sean T. Logue, Sean Logue, PLLC, Carnegie, PA, Shannon Conway, Pro Hac Vice, Talcott Franklin, Pro Hac Vice, Talcott Franklin P.C., Dallas, TX, for Plaintiffs.

Amanda B. Bundick, Robert A. Eberle, Eberle & Bundick, LLC, Sandra A. Kozlowski, Scott A. Bradley, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Civil Litigation Section, Pittsburgh, PA, Adam Bellotti, Pro Hac Vice, Jacob Karabell, Pro Hac Vice, John West, Leon Dayan, Pro Hac Vice, Bredhoff and Kaiser PLLC, Lubna A. Alam, Pro Hac Vice, National Education Association, Washington, DC, Joseph F. Canamucio, Pro Hac Vice, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Harrisburg, PA, for Defendants.



I. Introduction

Plaintiffs Arthur Diamond, Justin Barry, Douglas R. Kase, Jeffrey Schwartz, Matthew Shively, Matthew Simkins, and Sandra H. Ziegler (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring this purported class-action lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the Chestnut Ridge Education Association, and the National Education Association (collectively, "Union Defendants"), as well as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board James M. Darby, Members of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board Albert Mezzaroba and Robert H. Shoop, Jr., and Bedford County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts (collectively, "Commonwealth Defendants"). Plaintiffs, who are all current or retired Pennsylvania public-school teachers, allege that Union Defendants violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights by forcing Plaintiffs to pay fees to unions as a condition of their employment ("fair-share fees") under 71 Pa. Stat. § 575 ("Section 575"), even though Plaintiffs chose not to join the Pennsylvania State Education Association or its affiliate unions. Plaintiffs also claim that Commonwealth Defendants, who are charged in various ways with enforcing Pennsylvania's laws, must be enjoined from enforcing Section 575 in an unconstitutional manner. The outcome of this case turns in significant part on the application of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S. Ct. 2448, 201 L.Ed.2d 924 (2018), which was decided by the Supreme Court on June 27, 2018, less than two weeks after Plaintiffs filed their original Complaint in this matter. (See ECF No. 1.)

Pending before the Court are two Motions to Dismiss filed by Commonwealth Defendants and Union Defendants. (ECF Nos. 38, 40.) These Motions have been fully briefed (ECF Nos. 38, 39, 40, 41, 48, 51) and are now ripe for disposition.

For the reasons that follow, this Court will GRANT Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 38, 40).

II. Venue1

Because a substantial part of the events giving rise to Plaintiffs' claims occurred in the Western District of Pennsylvania, venue is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).

III. Background
A. Background on the Constitutionality of Fair-Share Fees

Before discussing Plaintiffs' claims, the Court will briefly describe the law on the constitutionality of fair-share fees.

1. Abood v. Detroit Board of Education

In 1977, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209, 97 S.Ct. 1782, 52 L.Ed.2d 261 (1977). In Abood, the Court confronted a Michigan statute that allowed unions representing local-government employees to utilize "agency-shop" clauses in collective-bargaining agreements. Id. at 211, 97 S.Ct. 1782. These clauses required every employee represented by a union, even those who declined to become union members for political or religious reasons, to pay union dues. Id. at 212, 97 S.Ct. 1782. Pursuant to this statute, a union that represented teachers employed by the Detroit Board of Education (the "Board") entered into a collective-bargaining agreement with the Board that required non-union-member teachers to pay a charge to the union equal to the regular dues paid by union members. Id. The non-member teachers sued, alleging that the charges paid under the agency-shop clause were used to support political activities, as opposed to simply being used to defray the costs of the union's collective-bargaining activities, and that the clause thus violated the teachers' First Amendment rights. Id. at 213, 97 S.Ct. 1782.

The Court held that the charges were constitutional to the extent they were used to finance the union's collective-bargaining, contract-administration, and grievance activities. Id. at 225, 97 S.Ct. 1782. The Court explained:

A union-shop arrangement has been thought to distribute fairly the cost of [collective-bargaining] activities among those who benefit, and it counteracts the incentive that employees might otherwise have to become ‘free riders’ to refuse to contribute to the union while obtaining benefits of union representation that necessarily accrue to all employees.

Id. at 221-22, 97 S.Ct. 1782. Furthermore, the Court reasoned that agency-shop arrangements promote what later case law has dubbed "labor peace." Janus, 138 S. Ct. at 2465. The Court explained that designating one union as the exclusive representative of a group of employees "frees the employer from the possibility of facing conflicting demands from different unions, and permits the employer and a single union to reach agreements and settlements that are not subject to attack from rival labor organizations." Abood, 431 U.S. at 221, 97 S.Ct. 1782.

However, the Court also concluded that the agency-shop clause and fees were unconstitutional insofar as the clause compelled non-member teachers to pay fees to the union that supported the union's political activities. Id. at 234-36, 97 S.Ct. 1782.

Writing for the majority, Justice Stewart explained that "at the heart of the First Amendment is the notion that an individual should be free to believe as he will, and that in a free society one's beliefs should be shaped by his mind and his conscience, rather than coerced by the State." Id. at 234-35, 97 S.Ct. 1782. Based on these First Amendment principles, the Court held that the Constitution prohibited the union from requiring a non-member "to contribute to the support of an ideological cause he may oppose as a condition of holding a job as a public school teacher." Id. at 235, 97 S.Ct. 1782. The Court elaborated:

We do not hold that a union cannot constitutionally spend funds for the expression of political views, on behalf of political candidates, or toward the advancement of other ideological causes not germane to its duties as collective-bargaining representative. Rather, the Constitution requires only that such expenditures be financed from charges, dues, or assessments paid by employees who do not object to advancing those ideas and who are not coerced into doing so against their will by the threat of loss of governmental employment.

Id. at 235-36, 97 S.Ct. 1782.

2. 71 Pa. Stat. § 575

In accordance with Abood, Pennsylvania enacted its own agency-shop statute for public employees in 1988, 71 Pa. Stat. § 575. According to Section 575, if mandated by the provisions of a collective-bargaining agreement, non-members of public-employee unions must pay fair-share fees to the unions. Id. § 575(b). These fees consist of the regular union-membership dues less "the cost for the previous fiscal year of [the unions'] activities or undertakings which were not reasonably employed to implement or effectuate the duties of the employe organization as exclusive representative." Id. § 575(a).

Section 575 also contains provisions (1) indicating how the public employer is to deduct the fair-share fees from non-members' paychecks, (2) describing union notice obligations to non-members, and (3) providing procedures for non-members to challenge the propriety of fair-share fees or the payment of fair-share fees on religious grounds. Id. § 575(c)-(h). In the event of a challenge on religious grounds, the non-member objector must pay the equivalent of the fair-share fee. Id. § 575(h). However, the union does not receive that payment—the fee goes "to a nonreligious charity agreed upon by the non[-]member and the [union]." Id.

Finally, Section 575 contains penalty provisions. Particularly, "[a]ny employe organization which violates the provisions of this section or fails to file any required report or affidavit or files a false report or affidavit shall be subject to a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000)." Id. § 575(l ). In addition, "[a]ny person who willfully violates this section, or who makes a false statement knowing it to be false, or who knowingly fails to disclose a material fact shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or undergo imprisonment for not more than thirty (30) days, or both." Id. § 575(m).

Consistent with Abood, the general propriety of the fair-share fees permitted under Section 575 withstood constitutional scrutiny for many years. See Hohe v. Casey, 740 F. Supp. 1092, 1094 (M.D. Pa. 1989) ("It is beyond doubt that agency shop fair-share fees, accompanied by appropriate procedural safeguards, are constitutional." (citing Chi. Teachers Union, Local No. 1 v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, 106 S.Ct. 1066, 89 L.Ed.2d 232 (1986) ; Ellis v. Ry. Clerks, 466 U.S. 435, 104 S.Ct. 1883, 80 L.Ed.2d 428 (1984) ; Abood, 431 U.S. at 209, 97 S.Ct. 1782 )), vacated in part on other grounds, 956 F.2d 399 (3d Cir. 1992).

However, the Supreme Court slowly began to question its holding in Abood. See Harris v. Quinn, 573 U.S. 616, 134 S. Ct. 2618, 2627, 2632-38, 189 L.Ed.2d 620 (2014) ; Knox v. Serv. Emps. Int'l Union, Local 1000, 567 U.S. 298, 311, 132 S.Ct. 2277, 183 L.Ed.2d...

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