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Weyandt v. Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Associations

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 15, 2019

WILLIAM WEYANDT, et. al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE CORRECTIONS OFFICERS ASSOCIATIONS, et. al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Hon. John E. Jones III Judge

         Presently pending before this Court are two Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendant Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (“PSCOA”), (Doc. 19), and by Defendants Thomas W. Wolf, Michael Newsome, and Brian T. Lyman (“Commonwealth Defendants”), (Doc. 20). Because both Motions raise similar arguments, we will address them together. For the reasons that follow, we shall grant both motions.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         We take the following from Plaintiffs' Complaint and assume it to be true, as we must. Where Plaintiffs' Complaint is lacking, we take from the record of the case, as we are permitted to do.[1]

         The instant case alleges a constitutional violation in a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) which governs Plaintiffs' employment by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs argue that provisions mandating continued union membership and payment of union dues violate their First Amendment rights as articulated by the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME. 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018).[2]Plaintiffs bring this claim on behalf of themselves and a putative class of similarly situated employees.

         Plaintiffs William Weyandt, Mark Mills, Chris Taylor, Brandon Westover, and Cory Yedlosky are Commonwealth employees at Huntington Correctional Institution. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 2). Their positions are subject to the Public Employee Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 1101.301(1), under which Defendant PSCOA negotiates the terms of Plaintiffs' employment with the Commonwealth. Id. at ¶ 9-10. Defendant PSCOA is a union which exclusively represents all Commonwealth Correctional Officers and Forensic Security Employees in collective bargaining with the Commonwealth. Id. at ¶ 3; 11. Commonwealth Defendants Thomas W. Wolf, Michael Newsome, and Brian T. Lyman are Commonwealth officials being sued in their official capacities as Governor, Secretary of the Office of Administration, and Chief Accounting Officer, respectively. Id. at ¶ 4-6. The assertedly violative CBA was negotiated between Defendant PSCOA and the Commonwealth and is effective from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020. Id. at ¶ 10.

         Plaintiffs object to two specific provisions of the CBA as violative of their First Amendment rights: the “membership-dues-deduction” clause and the “Association Security” provision. Id. at ¶ 17-23.

         The CBA's “membership-dues-deduction” clause requires that union membership dues be deducted on a biweekly basis from the pay of employees who request, in writing, that such deductions be made. Id. at ¶ 18. The clause further states that authorization for dues deduction is irrevocable before the end of the current CBA. Id. The “Association Security” provision provides that union members may only resign their membership in the fifteen (15) day period before the expiration date of the current CBA. Id. at ¶ 19. When read together, Plaintiffs argue, these provisions violate Plaintiffs' First Amendment right to not subsidize union speech, as articulated in Janus. Id. at ¶ 20; 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018)

         All named Plaintiffs joined the union and signed dues deduction authorization cards prior to June 27, 2018. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 25). On or about December 17, 2018, Plaintiff William Weyandt sent a letter to PSCOA in which he resigned his union membership and revoked his dues deduction authorization. Id. at ¶ 26. On December 21, 2018, PSCOA informed Weyandt that his request would not be honored due to the restrictions under the CBA and was told that he could discontinue his union dues deductions in the 15 days prior to the expiration of the CBA, as indicated in the “Association Security” provision. Id. at ¶ 27.

         On June 12, 2019, Plaintiffs' counsel notified PSCOA that Plaintiffs Weyandt, Mills, Taylor, Westover, and Yedlosky resigned their union memberships and revoked any dues deduction authorization forms they had signed. Id. at ¶ 28. On June 14, 2019, Plaintiffs initiated this action, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as nominal and compensatory damages. (Doc. 1).

         Since that filing, Defendant PSCOA has undertaken significant steps to alter their current membership practices under the CBA. On or about July 19, 2019, PSCOA notified Plaintiffs that it was honoring their requests to resign from the union and to revoke their dues deduction authorizations. (Doc. 26 at 5). At the same time, PSCOA notified the Commonwealth to cease dues deductions for Plaintiffs. Id. On or about August 9, 2019, PSCOA sent each named Plaintiff a check reimbursing them for the amount of dues deductions individually paid since they had sent written notification to PSCOA of their intent to resign their memberships and revoke their dues deduction authorizations. Id. at 6.

         On August 9, 2019, PSCOA and the Commonwealth also entered into a Side Letter amending the CBA, providing that “any member of [PSCOA] may resign from membership at any time by notifying the Association in writing.” Id. at 7. The Side Letter also states that “upon notification from [PSCOA], the Commonwealth shall cease [PSCOA] dues deductions for said individual.” Id. at 8.

         Defendant PSCOA filed the instant Motion to Dismiss on August 16, 2019. (Doc. 19). Commonwealth Defendants also filed a separate Motion to Dismiss on August 16, 2019. (Doc. 20). All Defendants filed briefs in support on August 30, 2019 (Docs. 24; 26). Plaintiff filed a consolidated brief in opposition, addressing the arguments raised by all Defendants on September 13, 2019 (Doc. 30). PSCOA filed its reply brief on September 26, 2019. (Doc. 32). Commonwealth Defendants filed their reply brief on September 27, 2019. (Doc. 33). The Motions are therefore ripe for disposition.

         II. ...


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