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Dailey v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

October 14, 2016

Dr. Mary Ann Dailey, Petitioner
v.
Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, Respondent

          Argued: September 13, 2016

          BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE MICHAEL H. WOJCIK, Judge HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

          OPINION

          RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge.

         Dr. Mary Ann Dailey (Dailey) petitions for review of an order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (Board) dismissing Dailey's Exceptions and making final a June 16, 2015 Decision of the Board's Secretary to not issue a complaint in response to Dailey's Charge of Unfair Labor Practices (Charge). Dailey argues that the Board abused its discretion and/or erred by not issuing a complaint against the Association of Pennsylvania State, College and University Faculties (APSCUF) because: (1) APSCUF violated Section 1201(b)(1) of the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA)[1] by coercing members to assist it in its activities through inflating membership dues; (2) the Board's precedent establishing that "internal union matters" are outside its jurisdiction conflicts with PERA; and (3) even if the "internal union matters" limitation is legal, APSCUF's conduct was not an internal union matter. Because the Board's conclusion that APSCUF's imposition of dues, as applied to Dailey, does not constitute an unfair labor practice is not clearly erroneous, and because the Board's "internal union matters" jurisdictional limitation complies with the law, we affirm.

         Dailey filed the Charge on May 18, 2015, alleging that APSCUF violated Section 1201(b)(1) of PERA, 43 P.S. § 1101.1201(b)(1). (R.R. at 1a.) According to the allegations, Dailey has been a member of APSCUF since 2006 and pays annual dues to APSCUF of 1.15 percent of her salary through automatic deductions from her pay check. (Id. at 3a.) Included in annual dues payments is $25 that has, at least for the past 18 years, been rebated by APSCUF to members. (Id. at 3a-4a.) APSCUF provides members with dues rebate designation cards (designation card) that allow members to elect to either (1) receive the $25 rebate; (2) donate the rebate to APSCUF's political action committee; or (3) direct that the rebate be retained by APSCUF's treasury. (Id. at 3a.) If no election is made by the member, the $25 is retained by APSCUF's treasury. (Id.) Sent to members together with the designation card is a brochure on APSCUF's political action committee. (Id. at 3a.) The brochure and other associated materials detail an annual "dues rebate campaign" whereby the political action committee asks union members to voluntarily designate that the rebate be paid directly to the political action committee. (Id. at 176a.) Information on the campaign was also available on APSCUF's website. A printout of a webpage, last updated some time in 2014 and attached to her Charge as an exhibit, states that "[i]f you haven't yet filled out a Dues Rebate card, please pick one up from the local APSCUF Chapter office or see your local [political action committee] Chair on campus." (Id. at 172a.)

         Dailey alleges that the dues rebate process is intended to raise money for APSCUF's political activity, and is designed to compel APSCUF members into contributing $25 more in annual dues than is necessary in violation of Sections 401 and 1201(b)(1) of PERA, 43 P.S. §§ 1101.401, 1101.1201(b)(1). (Id. at 3a-4a.) Dailey further alleges that she had to personally request a designation card in 2014, and that the deadline to elect a designation for that year had passed by the time she received the designation card. (Id. at 3a.) She further alleges that she did not receive a designation card at all in 2015. (Id.) Dailey argues that she was compelled to support APSCUF's treasury in both 2014 and 2015 with $25 beyond what was reasonably necessary.[2]

         Section 401 of PERA establishes the rights of public sector employees and provides:

It shall be lawful for public employes to organize, form, join or assist in employe organizations or to engage in lawful concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection or to bargain collectively through representatives of their own free choice and such employes shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities, except as may be required pursuant to a maintenance of membership provision[3] in a collective bargaining agreement.

43 P.S. § 1101.401. Section 1201 of PERA enforces Section 401 by prohibiting certain unfair practices. Subsection (b)(1) of Section 1201 provides:

(b) Employe organizations, their agents, or representatives or public employes are prohibited from:
(1) Restraining or coercing employes in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in [Section 401] of this act.

43 P.S. § 1101.1201(b)(1).

         The Secretary of the Board issued a Decision on June 16, 2015, declining to issue a complaint in response to Dailey's Charge. (Secretary's Decision, R.R. at 247a-48a.) The Secretary concluded that the allegations did not rise to the level of an unfair practice under Section 1201(b)(1) of PERA and that the allegations involve internal union matters outside the Board's unfair practice jurisdiction. (Id. at 247a.) The Secretary construed Dailey's Charge as essentially putting forth allegations of breach of the duty of fair representation, [4] which is within the exclusive jurisdiction of courts of common pleas. (Secretary's Decision, R.R. at 247a (citing Case v. Haz[le]ton Area Educational Support Personnel Association (PSEA/NEA), 928 A.2d 1154, 1161 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007)).)

         Dailey timely filed Exceptions to the Secretary's Decision to the Board on July 6, 2015. (R.R. at 249a-52a.) Therein, Dailey argued that the Secretary's resolution was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law because: (1) APSCUF's inflation of membership dues qualifies as an unfair labor practice; (2) the internal union matter jurisdictional limitation often utilized by the Board is inappropriate, and even if appropriate in some contexts, its use is inappropriate in the case at bar; and (3) APSCUF's activities were coercive and extend beyond a mere failure to represent. (R.R. at 250a-51a.) The Board, considering the factual allegations in the Charge as true, responded to Dailey's Exceptions as follows.

[Dailey] alleges in the [E]xceptions that the Secretary erred in dismissing the Charge because the dues rebate campaign coerces her into financially assisting APSCUF beyond what is required under the maintenance of membership provision in the parties' collective bargaining agreement. In this regard, [Dailey] asserts that the $25 remains in APSCUF's dues fund if the members do not respond within the deadline for the dues rebate. [Dailey] further asserts that she did not receive the dues rebate election form in 2015 until after the deadline, and thus her dues remained in APSCUF's dues fund.
Pursuant to Section 401 of PERA, public sector employes have the right to choose to become union members or to refrain from doing so. 43 P.S. § 1101.401. Section 1201(b)(1) of PERA provides that an employe organization is prohibited from "[r]estraining or coercing employes in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Article IV of [PERA]." 43 P.S. § 1101.1201(b)(1). Nothing in [Dailey]'s Charge supports the notion of restraint or coercion for the stated purpose that would give rise to a violation of Section 1201(b)(1) of PERA.
[Dailey] alleges that the dues rebate campaign coerces her into financially assisting APSCUF. However, the payment of membership dues is a corollary to an employe's decision to become a union member and [Dailey] alleged that she has been a member of APSCUF since 2006 thereby consenting to the payment of membership dues. Further, [Dailey] alleged that APSCUF's dues rebate campaign provides the employes with the option of either donating the $25 to APSCUF's political action committee, allowing the $25 to remain in APSCUF's dues fund, receiving a rebate or choosing not to fill out the dues rebate form altogether. Since at least 2012, the employes' rebate election made by April 1 of any given year was effective "during the current fiscal year and on any subsequent occasion." (Exhibit F[, R.R. at 178a.]) Because APSCUF's dues rebate campaign does not affect membership rights and provides the employes with options regarding disposition of the rebate, [Dailey] has failed to state a cause of action under Section 1201(b)(1) of PERA.
With regard to [Dailey]'s allegation that APSCUF is overcharging its members $25 in dues in order to offer the rebate, the amount of dues charged union members is an internal union matter over which the Board does not have jurisdiction. See Rudnick v. AFSCME Dist[.] Council 47, 29 PPER ¶ 29144 (Final Order, 1998) (employe's claim involving union's denial of access to names and addresses of members who overpaid dues was an internal union matter not within the Board's jurisdiction). Further, [Dailey]'s allegations make clear that only voluntary contributions are forwarded to APSCUF's political action committee, and [Dailey]'s general allegation that APSCUF is utilizing membership dues for an unauthorized purpose does not fall within the scope of unfair practices set forth in Article XII of PERA. See Borough of Ambridge v. Local Union 1051, AFSCME, 17 PPER ΒΆ 17075 (Final Order, 1986) (Board has authority to ...

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