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Wholean v. CSEA Seiu Local 2001

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 26, 2019

KIERNAN J. WHOLEAN and JAMES A. GRILLO, Plaintiffs,
v.
CSEA SEIU LOCAL 2001, BENJAMIN BARNES, in his official capacity as Secretary of Policy and Management, State of Connecticut, SANDRA FAE BROWN-BREWTON, in her official Capacity as Undersecretary of Labor Relations, State of Connecticut, and ROBERT KLEE, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, State of Connecticut, Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Warren W. Eginton, Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs are employees of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection who paid fair-share or “agency” fees to Local 2001 prior to the United States Supreme Court decision, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (June 27, 2018), which held that public employers may not require public employees to pay fair-share fees. Plaintiffs' second amended complaint alleges a putative class action challenging the constitutionality of requiring non-union members to pay union fees as a condition of state employment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs also allege one claim of unjust enrichment pursuant to state law.

         Defendant CSEA and the defendant state officials have filed motions to dismiss, which assert that plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief are now moot. Defendant CSEA argues further that plaintiffs' request for repayment of such fees should be dismissed because defendant had a good faith reliance on existing law authorizing collection of such fees.

         For the following reasons, the motions to dismiss will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court considers the facts alleged in the complaint to be true. For purposes of considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court also considers factual issues outside of the pleadings, including the affidavits attached to the motions to dismiss See State Emps. Bargaining Agent Coal. v. Rowland, 494 F.3d 71, 77 n.4 (2d Cir. 2007).

         Defendant Local 2001 serves as the collective bargaining representative for a bargaining unit comprising employees of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (“DEEP”). Plaintiffs are not union members.

         Prior to June 27, 2018, the collective bargaining agreements governing plaintiffs' bargaining unit required non-members to pay fair-share fees to Local 2001 to cover their portion of the costs of collective bargaining representation.

         The day after Janus was issued, Local 2001 notified DEEP that it should stop deducting fees from non-members. Two days later, the State of Connecticut informed Local 2001 and other labor unions representing State employee to discontinue deducting agency fees from non-union members. Due to the processing time required for payroll changes, these fees were deducted from non-members' wages for the payroll issued on July 6, 2018. However, Local 2001 did not accept those fees and sent refunds directly to the non-members.

         Local 2001 as part of a Coalition representing all state employee unions and the State of Connecticut signed a formal agreement eliminating from their collective bargaining agreements any provisions requiring payment of fair-share fees. In September 2018, the parties signed a stipulated agreement providing, in part, "any provisions of ... [the parties'] collective bargaining agreements requiring or authorizing the collection of fair share fees from non-union bargaining unit members without the specific affirmative consent of such non-union members are and shall be null and void as of the date of issuance of the Janus decision.”

         Plaintiffs' second amended complaint recognizes that “the State Defendants stopped deducting forced fees from the Plaintiffs and class members' wages;” and that “the Defendants on September 17, 2018, entered a stipulated agreement which made the forced fees provisions in the existing CBA null and void in light of Janus.” However, plaintiffs assert that defendants “failed to notify Plaintiffs or the proposed class that the CBA no longer requires forced fees even though the existing CBA's other provisions are still ongoing until June 30, 2021.” Plaintiffs maintain that “the bargaining unit's membership knowledge that the forced fees provisions continue to exist chills their exercise of First Amendment rights to free speech and association.” Plaintiffs allege that “Local 2001 has not refunded the fees it collected before July 6, 2018, to Plaintiffs and the class.” Plaintiffs maintain that defendants were on notice regarding the Supreme Court's misgivings about Abood and have thereby received a windfall from the unconstitutional collection of non-members' fees.

         DISCUSSION

         A motion to dismiss under FRCP 12(b)(1) "challenges the court's statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case before it." 2A James W. Moore et. al., Moore's Federal Practice, ¶ 12.07, at 12-49 (2d ed. 1994). Once the question of jurisdiction is raised, the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction rests on the party asserting such jurisdiction. See Thomson v. Gaskill, 315 U.S. 442, 446 (1942).

         The function of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is "merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof." Ryder Energy Distribution v. Merrill Lynch Commodities, Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir. 1984). When deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the pleader. Hishon v. King, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). The complaint must contain the grounds upon which the claim rests through factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A plaintiff is obliged to amplify a ...


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