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Anderson v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

September 4, 2019

LORIANN ANDERSON, KERRIN FISCUS, KENNETH HILL, RENE LAYTON, MICHAEL MILLER, BERNARD PERKINS, DENNIS RICHEY, KATHIE SIMMONS, KENT WILES, and MELINDA WILTSE, as individuals and representatives of the respective requested classes, Plaintiffs,
v.
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION (SEIU) LOCAL 503, OREGON PUBLIC EMPLOYEES UNION (OPEU); OREGON AFSCME COUNCIL 75, labor organizations; KATY COBA, in her official capacity as Director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services; JACKSON COUNTY, LANE COUNTY, MARION COUNTY, WALLOWA COUNTY, CITY OF PORTLAND, political subdivisions of the State of Oregon; WESTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY, a public higher educational institution; NORTHWEST SENIOR & DISABILITY SERVICES, a local intergovernmental agency, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim [24].[1] For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted, and Plaintiffs' case is dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are ten individuals employed by state or local government entities in Oregon. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 12-21. Each Plaintiff is in a bargaining unit represented by at least one of the union defendants or its affiliates. Id. ¶¶ 2, 12-21. Before the Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Counsel 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448, 2486 (2018), Plaintiffs signed agreements to join their respective unions. Id. ¶ 2. Each agreement included a “maintenance of membership” provision. Id. ¶¶ 4, 65, 67. This provision authorized the payment of union dues and was irrevocable for a period of at least one year. Id. As explained by Defendants, the provision authorized the deduction of union dues-or an amount equivalent to union dues-from Plaintiffs' wages “for a one-year period, and from year to year thereafter, unless revoked during an annual window period, regardless of whether the Plaintiff[s] later resigned from union membership.” Defs. Mot. 4, ECF 24.

         Following the Court's decision in Janus, Plaintiffs resigned their union memberships and revoked the authorization for deduction of union dues from their wages. Compl. ¶¶ 32, 35, 38, 42, 45, 49, 52, 55, 59, 62. The unions processed the resignations, and Plaintiffs are no longer union members. Id. ¶¶ 33, 36, 39, 43, 46, 50, 53, 56, 60, 63. However, because each Plaintiff resigned from membership before the end of the annual window period, Defendants continued to deduct payment from Plaintiffs' wages. Id. ¶¶ 4, 70. The unions informed each Plaintiff that these deductions would automatically terminate at the end of the one-year deduction commitment period. Id. ¶¶ 33, 36, 39, 43, 46, 50, 53, 56, 60, 63.

         Plaintiffs bring a single cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants now move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

         STANDARDS

         On a motion to dismiss, the court must review the sufficiency of the complaint. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). A complaint is construed in favor of the plaintiff, and its factual allegations are taken as true. Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). “[F]or a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.” Moss v. United States Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007). The court, however, need “not assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.” Id. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . .” Id. at 555.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs bring a single claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that:

Each Defendant's maintenance and enforcement of its dues checkoff and maintenance of membership provisions and restrictive revocation policies and continued deduction and collection of union dues/fees from the wages of Plaintiffs and class members, pursuant to ORS 243.776 and ORS 292.055(3), without the affirmative authorization and knowing waiver of their First Amendment rights violates Plaintiffs' and class members' First Amendment rights to free speech and association[.]

         Compl. ¶ 85. In other words, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violate their First Amendment rights to not subsidize union speech through (a) the “Union Defendants' restrictive revocation policies; (b) the public employer Defendants' continued dues deductions; and (c) the Union Defendants' collection of union dues from Plaintiffs . . . without their consent.” Pls. Resp. 3, ECF 53.

         To the extent that Plaintiffs challenge Defendants' “revocation policies” and “continued dues deduction” (under these policies), this challenge lacks merit. See Fisk v. Inslee, 759 Fed.Appx. 632, 633 (9th Cir. 2019) (“Appellees' deduction of union dues in accordance with the membership cards' dues irrevocability provision does not violate Appellants' First Amendment rights. Although Appellants resigned their membership in the union and objected to providing continued financial support, the First Amendment does not preclude the enforcement of ‘legal obligations' that are bargained-for and ‘self-imposed' under state contract law.”) (quoting Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663, 668-71 (1991)).

         However, Plaintiffs also argue that Defendants violate the First Amendment by collecting union dues without consent. In other words, Plaintiffs appear to argue that the underlying membership agreement violates Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights because it lacks the “waiver” Plaintiffs allege is necessary under Janus. This argument is also without merit.[2] The membership agreement here does not compel involuntary dues deductions and does not violate the First Amendment. See Belgau v. Inslee, 359 F.Supp.3d 1000, 1016 (W.D. Wash. 2019). All deductions of dues from Plaintiffs' pay are made pursuant to Plaintiffs' explicit written consent in the membership agreements. The parties do not dispute that Plaintiffs signed the membership agreements and that they did not need to do so as a condition of their employment. Plaintiffs could have declined to join the union and paid agency fees instead. In reaching this conclusion, the Court follows the district courts in this circuit that have addressed this issued. See, e.g., Belgau, 359 F.Supp.3d at 1016 (same); Cooley v. Cal. Statewide Law Enf't Ass'n., No. 2:18-cv-02961-JAM-AC, 2019 WL 2994502, at *2 (E.D. Cal. July 9, 2019) (“Mr. Cooley's contractual dues payments to the Union were in no part compulsory.”); Smith v. Bieker, No. 18-cv-05472-VC, ...


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