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LaSpina v. Seiu Pennsylvania State Council

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 11, 2019

BETHANY LASPINA, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SEIU PENNSYLVANIA STATE COUNCIL, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court is the motion to dismiss the second amended complaint (“SAC”), (Doc. 66), of plaintiff Bethany LaSpina filed by defendant union SEIU[1] Pennsylvania State Council (“State Council”), (Doc. 53), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) since she was not a member of this union and, for failure to have Article III standing to pursue class action claims on behalf of members and former members of this union pursuant to 12(b)(1). State Council also contends that its affiliation with the union defendant to which she paid fees is not sufficient to confer on plaintiff standing to sue it or to state a claim against it. For the reasons that follow, State Council's motion to dismiss will be GRANTED and plaintiff's federal claims against this defendant will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND [2]

         Plaintiff claims that she was unconstitutionally required to pay union dues and, in Counts 1, 2 and 3 of her SAC, she raises federal claims against all defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.[3] In particular, plaintiff alleges that her First Amendment rights were violated when Local 668 continued to take dues from her paycheck after she resigned her membership in the union, based on the Janus[4] decision, and after she told her employer (i.e., Scranton Public Library) to “halt the payroll deduction of union-related fees.” With respect to the union defendants other than Local 668, plaintiff alleges that they “enforced unconstitutional agency shops before the Supreme Court's ruling in Janus and violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiff class members by tapping their paychecks against their will.”

         Further, plaintiff seeks relief under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 22 U.S.C. §2201, requesting a permanent injunction enjoining defendants from accepting dues or fees unless the employees have given their consent to join the unions.

         Plaintiff also raises state law claims against all defendants for conversion, trespass to chattels, replevin, restitution, and unjust enrichment.

         In addition to SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, remaining defendants in this case are Local 668, Lackawanna County Public Library System, and Scranton Public Library.[5]

         Plaintiff alleges that State Council “coordinates and unifies the collective political, administrative, and communication structures of all SEIU locals and districts throughout Pennsylvania.” Plaintiff also alleges that the other four union defendants were “affiliated with” State Council. Additionally, plaintiff purports to bring claims on behalf of public employee members and former members of the defendant union affiliates of State Council alleging that they were unconstitutionally required to pay union dues and fair share fees. She seeks to raise First Amendment claims and state law claims on behalf of public employees who were allegedly forced to pay dues and fair share fees to the defendant union affiliates of State Council.

         Plaintiff further purports to bring claims on behalf of all employees in bargaining units represented by affiliates of State Council who were subjected to union-related payroll deductions to which they did not knowingly consent.

         As relief, plaintiff seeks a refund of all of the dues she paid to Local 668. Plaintiff also seeks to require the defendant unions to refund all dues and fees they received from her. Additionally, plaintiff seeks punitive damages for herself and for members of all defendant unions who resigned from the unions or requested that the unions stop taking dues or fees after the Janus decision and who continued to have dues or fees withdrawn from their pay. Further, plaintiff is seeking injunctive relief on her own behalf and behalf of class members who were subjected to union-related payroll deductions without their consent, and she requests the court to enjoin “[State Council] and its affiliates from taking money from any public employee until the union obtains a freely given and fully informed waiver of the employee's constitutional rights under Janus.”

         Plaintiff is proceeding on her SAC filed January 28, 2019. (Doc. 66). On January 14, 2019, State Council filed its original motion to dismiss.[6] (Doc. 53).

         The motion to dismiss of State Council has been briefed. (Docs. 55, 74 & 78).

         The court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and 28 U.S.C. §1343(a) because plaintiff avers violations of his rights under the U.S. Constitution. The court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1337. Venue is appropriate in this court since the alleged constitutional violations occurred in this district. See 28 U.S.C. §1391.

         II. ...


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