Knox v. Cal. State Employees Ass'n, Local 1000, Serv. Employees Intern. Union, AFL-CIO-CLC

Decision Date10 December 2010
Docket NumberNo. 08-16645,08-16645
Citation628 F.3d 1115
PartiesDianne KNOX; William L. Blaylock; Robert A. Conover; Edward L. Dobrowolski, Jr.; Karyn Gil; Thomas Jacob Hass; Patrick Johnson; Jon Jumper, On Behalf of Themselves and the Class They Seek to Represent, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CALIFORNIA STATE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, LOCAL 1000, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO-CLC, Defendant-Appellant, and Steve Westly, Controller, State of California, Defendant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Jeffrey B. Demain, Altshuler Berzon LLP, San Francisco, CA, for the defendant-appellant.

W. James Young, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc., Springfield, VA, for the plaintiffs-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Morrison C. England, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:05-CV-02198-MCE-KJM.

Before: J. CLIFFORD WALLACE, DAVID R. THOMPSON and SIDNEY R. THOMAS, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge THOMAS; Dissent by Judge WALLACE.

OPINION

THOMAS, Circuit Judge:

This appeal presents the question of whether a union is required, pursuant to Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, 106 S.Ct. 1066, 89 L.Ed.2d 232 (1986), in addition to an annual fee notice to nonmembers, to send a second notice when adopting a temporary, mid-term fee increase. Under the circumstances presented by this case, we conclude that a second notice is not required, and we reverse the judgment of the district court.

I
A

Congress has long recognized the "important contribution of the union shop to the system of labor relations." Locke v. Karass, 555 U.S. 207, 129 S.Ct. 798, 803, 172 L.Ed.2d 552 (2009) (quoting Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U.S. 209, 222, 97 S.Ct. 1782, 52 L.Ed.2d 261 (1977)). The Supreme Court has underscored this Congressional policy by enforcing the right of a union, as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of its employees, to require nonunion employees to pay a fair share of the union's costs. Ellis v. Bhd. of Ry., Airline and S.S. Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees, 466 U.S. 435, 448, 104 S.Ct. 1883, 80 L.Ed.2d 428 (1984). However, the Supreme Court has also recognized the First Amendment limitation on collection of fees from dissenting employees for the support of ideological causes not germane to the union's duties as collective-bargaining agent. Id. at 447, 104 S.Ct. 1883.

In Hudson, the Supreme Court established certain procedural safeguards to balance these interests by requiring "an adequate explanation of the basis for the fee, a reasonably prompt opportunity to challenge the amount of the fee before an impartial decisionmaker, and an escrow for the amounts reasonably in dispute while such challenges are pending." Id. at 310, 106 S.Ct. 1066. Notices issued pursuant to this language have become known as " Hudson notice[s]." Wagner v. Prof'l Eng'rs in Cal. Gov't, 354 F.3d 1036, 1039 (9th Cir.2004).

After receiving a Hudson notice, "the nonunion employee has the burden of raising an objection, but ... the union retains the burden of proof" as to the appropriate proportion of fair share fees. Hudson, 475 U.S. at 306, 106 S.Ct. 1066. It is the policies underlying Hudson that inform the determination of whether a Hudson notice is adequate: "Basic considerations of fairness, as well as concern for the First Amendment rights at stake, ... dictate that the potential objectors be given sufficient information to gauge the propriety of the union's fee." Id.

B

This appeal involves the adequacy of a Hudson notice given by SEIU Local 1000 (the "Union"), the exclusive bargaining agent for California state employees. The Union and the State of California have entered into a series of Memoranda of Understanding controlling the terms and conditions of employment for employees, including a provision requiring that all State employees in these bargaining units join the Union as formal Union members, or if opting not to join, pay an "agency" or "fair share" fee to the Union for its representational efforts on their behalf. Id. (known as an "agency shop agreement"). The agency fee is calculated as a percentage of the Union dues paid by members of the Union.

The Union issues a Hudson notice to all nonmembers every June. The constitutionally required notice is meant to provide nonmembers with an adequate explanation of the basis of the agency fee. Hudson, 475 U.S. at 310, 106 S.Ct. 1066. The notice contains information regarding the Union's expenditures from the most recently audited prior year, broken down by major category of expense and then, within each category, allocated between "chargeable" and "non-chargeable" classifications. "Chargeable" expenses are those that are "germane" to the union's representational functions, and can be charged to all nonmembers of the union. See Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Ass'n, 500 U.S. 507, 519, 111 S.Ct. 1950, 114 L.Ed.2d 572 (1991) (Blackmun, J., plurality opinion). "Non-chargeable" expenses are those unrelated to the union's representational functions, such as partisan political expenditures or purely ideological issues. Id. The union may charge nonmembers for non-chargeable expenses, but the nonmember has the option to object, and only be charged a reduced agency fee based upon the percent of the union's total expenditures that can be classified as "chargeable." In addition, the nonmember is not charged for certain union-sponsored benefits, such as a credit union credit card, that are not available to nonmembers.

The financial information in the notice forms the basis for calculating the fee to be paid by nonmembers during the ensuing fee year. The notice also provides that for thirty days after the notice is issued, nonunion employees can object to the collection of the full agency fee, and elect instead to only pay a reduced rate during the upcoming fee year based on the percentage ratio of chargeable expenditures to total expenditures. During that thirty day period, nonmembers can challenge the Union's calculation of its chargeable and non-chargeable expenses, to be resolved by an impartial decision maker. Knox v. Westly, No. 2:05-CV-02198, 2008 WL 850128, at *2 (E.D.Cal. Mar. 28, 2008).

A given agency fee is in effect from July 1 through June 30 of the following year (the "fee year"), at which point the agency fee set forth in the Union's next Hudson notice goes into effect. The 2005 Hudson notice set the agency fee to be paid by nonunion employees as 99.1% of the Union dues. 1 The reduced agency fee of 56.35% of Union dues would be charged to nonmembers who objected to paying the full agency fee, and who requested a reduction pursuant to the procedures and deadlines outlined in the notice. The notice explicitly stated dues and fees were subject to change without further notice to fee payers.

During the summer of 2005, the legislative bodies within the Union debated and approved a temporary assessment (also referred to as a dues and fees increase) equal to .0025, or .25% of Union members' gross wages. The increase took effect at the end of September 2005 and terminated at the end of December 2006, and was expected to raise $12 million for the Union.

Specifically, on July 30, 2005 the Union's Budget Committee proposed an emergency temporary assessment to create what was termed in the agenda item introducing it as a "Political Fight Back Fund." This agenda item stated the Fund "will be used for a broad range of political expenses" in response to several "anti-union" propositions on the November 2005 special election ballot in California, and that the fund "will not be used for regular costs of the union—such as office rent, staff salaries orroutine equipment replacement." Id. On August 27, 2005 Union delegates voted to implement the temporary dues increase. On August 31, 2005, the Union sent a letter to all members and agency fee payers stating that they were subject to the new increase, and that the fund would be used "to defeat Propositions 76 and 75," other future attacks on the Union pension plan, and other activities.

The Union material indicated that the fund would be used for political activities. Yet, in response to inquiries, the Union specifically stated it intended to split the increase "between political actions and collective bargaining actions." Further, not all of the political activities fell into the "non-chargeable" category. The assessment itself included no spending limitations, and the money was actually used for a range of activities, both political and not, and both chargeable and not.2 Pursuant to the increase, the Controller began collecting additional fees from Plaintiffs at the end of September 2005.

Plaintiffs represent two classes of nonunion employees, those who objected to the Union's 2005 Hudson notice ("objectors") and those who did not ("nonobjectors") (collectively "Plaintiffs"). Knox, 2008 WL 850128, at *2. Plaintiffs initiated this action in November 2005, alleging the assessment violated their First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs filed for summary judgment, and the Union filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment. The district court granted Plaintiffs' motion in its entirety, and partially granted and partially denied the Union's motion. This timely appeal followed.

We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment on the sufficiency of the Hudson notice. Cummings v. Connell, 316 F.3d 886, 890 (9th Cir.2003). On review, we must determine, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court correctly applied the relevant substantive law. Olsen v. Idaho State Bd. of Med., 363 F.3d 916, 922 (9th Cir.2004).

II
A

In reviewing the adequacy of the Hudson notice, we employ our usual standard of review, as dictated by Hudson. In that case, the Supreme...

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5 cases
  • Knox v. Serv. Emps. Int'l Union
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 21, 2012
    ...contributions to the Political Fight–Back Fund. Id., at *12.A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed. Knox v. California State Employees Assn., Local 1000, 628 F.3d 1115 (2010). According to the panel majority, Hudson prescribed the use of a balancing test. 628 F.3d, at 1119–1120. The ......
  • Knox v. John Chiang
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • June 5, 2013
    ...for partial summary judgment. (Order, ECF No. 139.) Defendants appealed, and the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. 628 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2010). In accordance with the Ninth Circuit's opinion, this Court then issued an order denying Plaintiffs' motion for Summary Judgment and reversing ......
  • Hamidi v. Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Local 1000
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • May 22, 2015
    ...U.S. 292 (1986). Before Knox reached the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit employed a "balancing test" in Hudson challenges. 628 F.3d 1115, 1119-20 (9th Cir. 2010), rev'd and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2277 (2012). The Supreme Court clarified the standard in Knox by stating, Far from calling for a......
  • Knox v. Chiang, 2:05-CV-02198-MCE-CMK
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • April 16, 2014
    ...cross-motion for partial summary judgment. ECF No. 139. Defendants appealed, and the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. 628 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2010). In accordance with the Ninth Circuit's opinion, this Court then issued an order denying Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and revers......
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