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Molina v. Pennsylvania Social Service Union

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 18, 2019

FRANCISCO MOLINA, Plaintiff
v.
PENNSYLVANIA SOCIAL SERVICE UNION, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Yvette Kane, District Judge

         Presently before the Court are Defendants Stephen Catanese, Pennsylvania Social Service Union, Service Employees International, and Lehigh County Board of Commissioners' (“Defendants”) motions to dismiss Plaintiff Francisco Molina (“Plaintiff”)'s first amended complaint (Doc. No. 20) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (Doc. Nos. 27, 28). Having heard oral argument on the motions on June 4, 2019, and upon review of the record, the parties' arguments, and the applicable law, for the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background[1]

         1. Plaintiff's Employment and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”)

         Plaintiff, a resident of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, is a former employee of the Office of Children and Youth Services of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 20 ¶ 8.) As a Social Services Aide, Plaintiff was a “public employe” for purposes of Pennsylvania's Public Employee Relations Act (“PERA”), codified at 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1101.101, et seq., “and was in a bargaining unit exclusively represented for purposes of collective bargaining by” Defendant Pennsylvania Social Service Union, Service Employees International, Local 668 (“Defendant PSSU”), which is an “employe organization” and “representative” under PERA. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Defendant Stephen Catanese (“Defendant Catanese”) is the president of PSSU (id. ¶ 10), and Defendant Lehigh County Board of Commissioners (“Defendant Lehigh County”) acts as the legislative arm of Lehigh County's government and sets wages for county employees (id. ¶ 11). Accordingly, Defendant Lehigh County approved the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) “setting forth [Plaintiff's] terms and conditions of employment.” (Id.) Defendants PSSU and Lehigh County “have entered into the CBA, which controlled the terms and conditions of [Plaintiff's] employment.” (Id. ¶ 12.) Defendants PSSU and Lehigh County “agreed to the term of the CBA, which is January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2018” and “are expected to continue to operate pursuant to the terms and conditions of the CBA, including those for [Plaintiff's] position, until they reach a successor agreement.” (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.)

         2. Relevant Provisions of the CBA and PERA

          The CBA includes, in relevant part, a “Union Security” article that, according to Plaintiff, “prohibits union members from resigning their union membership when and how they see fit.” (Id. ¶ 15.) Specifically, this provision reads as follows:

3.1. Each employee who, on the effective date of this Agreement is a member of the Union, and each employee who becomes a member after the date shall maintain his/her membership in the Union, provided that such employee may resign from the Union during a period of fifteen (15) days prior to the expiration of this Agreement. The payment of dues and assessments uniformly required of the membership shall be the only requisite employment condition[;]
3.2. The Employer agrees to deduct the bi-weekly membership dues from the pay of those employees who individually request in writing that such deductions be made. The amounts to be deducted shall be certified to the Employer by the Union, and the aggregate deductions of all employees shall be remitted together with an itemized statement to the Union by the last day of the succeeding month, after such deductions are made. Except as otherwise provided in Section 3.1 of this Article, the authorization shall be irrevocable during the term of the Agreement[;]
3.3 The Union may demand the discharge of any employee who, on any tender date specified, fails to comply with the provisions of this Section, by serving written notice thereof on the Employer no later than ten (10) calendar days after such tender date, if, prior to such tender date, the Union has notified the employee of the exact amount of the financial obligation due to the Union. As soon as the Employer verifies that the employee specified in such written notice failed to comply and that the discharge of the employee would not otherwise be unlawful, the Employer shall discharge the employee.

(Id.) (citing Doc. No. 20-1, CBA art. III, §§ 3.1-3.3).

         Article III, Section 3.1 of the CBA also “imposes a maintenance of membership requirement mirroring, in substantive part, PERA's maintenance of membership provision” (id. ¶ 16), which defines the term “maintenance of membership” as meaning that:

all employes who have joined an employe organization or who join the employe organization in the future must remain members for the duration of a collective bargaining agreement so providing with the proviso that any such employe or employes may resign from such employe organization during a period of fifteen days prior to the expiration of any such agreement.

43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1101.301(18). Additionally, Section 1101.705 of PERA articulates that “[m]embership dues deductions and maintenance of membership are proper subjects of bargaining with the proviso that as to the latter, the payment of dues and assessments while members, may be the only requisite employment condition.” See id. § 1101.705. Also of note is Section 1101.401 of PERA, which, according to Plaintiff, “explicitly limits the rights of public employees as to ‘maintenance of membership'” (Doc. No. 20 ¶ 16) by stating that:

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 in a collective bargaining agreement.

43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1101.401. As stated by Plaintiff, both the CBA and PERA, therefore, “limit a public employee's right to resign from PSSU to only the 15-day window immediately preceding the expiration of the CBA.” (Doc. No. 20 ¶ 17.) Additionally, Article III, Section 3.2 of the CBA “provides for the deduction of union dues.” (Id. ¶ 18.)

         Plaintiff also states that Defendant PSSU “and/or its officials represent to membership that [S]ection 3.3 of the CBA's Article III is applicable to PSSU members and nonmembers, such that PSSU members would be terminated if unable or unwilling to pay union dues.” (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff similarly alleges that Defendant PSSU and its officials “represent to membership that, if a public employee resigns his or her membership, [Defendant] PSSU would no longer provide union representation to that public employee[, ]” and that “if a public employee resigns his or her membership, that public employee is no longer entitled to the terms and conditions set forth in any collective bargaining agreements.” (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.)

         3. Events Surrounding the End of Plaintiff's Employment and Deduction of Dues

         Defendant PSSU “called a meeting of PSSU members in [Plaintiff's] bargaining unit” on approximately January 10, 2018. (Id. ¶ 22.) At this meeting, Defendant PSSU “requested that certain PSSU members, including [Plaintiff], sign new membership cards that included authorization and assignment of dues deductions, made irrevocable from the date of signing until dates certain or dates specified by the CBA, whichever period is longer.” (Id. ¶ 23.) Additionally, Defendant PSSU “informed membership that it needed these new membership cards signed because all previously signed membership cards were ‘invalid.'” (Id. ¶ 24.) According to Plaintiff, neither this new membership card nor any previous membership card “informed public employees that they have a First Amendment right not to associate with or subsidize the speech of [Defendant] PSSU[, ]” nor did it “request[] that public employees affirmatively waive or consent to a violation of their First Amendment rights.” (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.) Plaintiff did not sign the new membership application, and as stated in the complaint, “has never, irrespective of any previously signed membership cards, affirmatively waived or consented to a violation of his First Amendment rights.” (Id. ¶ 27.)

         Following the meeting, on June 27, 2018, Plaintiff asked Defendant Lehigh County's Director of Human Resources, M. Judith Johnston (“Director Johnston”), “to stop deducting union payments from his wages.” (Id. ¶ 28.) According to Plaintiff, Director Johnston informed him “that he must contact [Defendant] PSSU by certified letter, return receipt requested, in order to stop union payments.” (Id. ¶ 29.) Subsequently, on July 16, 2018, Plaintiff “sent his resignation letter to PSSU's headquarters located at 2589 Interstate Drive, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with a copy to Director Johnston[, ]” and the letter “was received at PSSU's headquarters on or about July 20, 2018.” (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) On August 14, 2018, Plaintiff “was dismissed from his position with Lehigh County's Office of Children and Youth Services.” (Id. ¶ 32.) Shortly thereafter, on August 20, 2018, “pursuant to the CBA, ” ...


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