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Hernandez v. AFSCME California

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 19, 2019

LILIANA HERNANDEZ, MIRANDA ALEXANDER, NATASHA JOFFE, MARIA ISABEL HOLTROP, MARCO FEKRAT, EMIN GHARIBIAN, ROHIT SHARMA, HECTOR ARROYO, and TIMOTHY PORTER, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
AFSCME CALIFORNIA; AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES; AFSCME LOCAL 3299, AFSCME LOCAL 2620, and AFSCME LOCAL 3634, as individual defendants and as representatives of the class of all chapters and affiliates of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; XAVIER BECERRA, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of California; ADRIA JENKINS-JONES, in her official capacity as Acting Director of the California Department of Human Resources; RALPH DIAZ, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; BETTY YEE, in her official capacity as State Controller of California; PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SERVICES CORPORATION; LOS ANGELES COUNTY METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          WILLIAM B. SHUBB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs are employees of the State of California and brought this action against various affiliates of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”) (collectively “the union defendants”), various officials of the State of California, the Public Transportation Services Corporation, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (collectively “the state defendants”). Plaintiffs allege that AFSCME Local 3299 and Local 2620 unlawfully deducted dues from their paychecks after they resigned their union memberships. Before the court is the union defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 89).

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiffs Miranda Alexander, Natasha Joffe, and Maria Holtrop became members of AFSCME Local 2620 by signing a membership agreement that authorized their employer, the State of California, to deduct monthly dues and remit them to the union. (Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 3; Resp. to Defs.' SUF at 12, 14, 15 (Docket No. 94-1).) The agreement stated that the authorization was “voluntary and not a condition of [plaintiffs'] employment.” (Mem. in Supp. of Summ. J, Exs. 4a, 4f, 4k, “Local 2620 Membership Agreements” (Docket No. 90).) The authorization was “irrevocable . . . for a period of one year from the date of execution, ” “regardless of whether [plaintiffs] [were] or remain[ed] a member of the Union.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff Hector Arroyo became a member of AFSCME Local 3299 by signing a similar membership contract. (Resp. to Defs.' SUF at 8, ¶ 23.) Arroyo's membership agreement committed Arroyo “voluntarily to contribute” an amount equal to membership dues for a period of one year even if Arroyo resigned his union membership or “the law no longer require[d] nonmembers to pay a fair share fee.” (Mem. in Supp. of Summ. J, Ex. 2e, “Arroyo Membership Agreement” (Docket No. 90-3).) The authorization would renew each year unless Arroyo mailed the union a signed revocation letter. (Id.)

         Plaintiff Liliana Hernandez also joined AFSCME Local 3299 by signing a membership agreement. (Resp. to Defs.' SUF at 3, ¶ 10.) The agreement did not provide for a commitment to pay dues for any set amount of time, nor did it place restrictions on when Hernandez could revoke her dues deduction authorization. (See Mem. in Supp. of Summ. J, Ex. 1a, “Hernandez Membership Agreement” (Docket No. 90-2).)

         On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court decided Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018), and held that no payment to a union may be collected from an employee without the employee's clear affirmative consent. Id. at 2486. After the Court announced its decision, plaintiffs contacted their respective unions to resign their union membership and halt payroll deductions of membership dues. (Resp. to Defs.' SUF at 4, ¶ 13; 9, ¶ 26; 12, ¶ 43; 15, ¶ 50; 16, ¶ 57.) The unions cancelled plaintiffs' memberships. (Resp. to Defs.' SUF at 5, ¶ 18; 8, ¶ 29; 13, ¶ 45; 14, ¶ 53; 15, ¶ 59.) Although plaintiffs were no longer union members, each union continued collecting membership dues from plaintiffs pursuant to their respective membership contracts. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs filed suit and asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California state common law. Plaintiffs concede that plaintiff Hernandez' state common law claims fall exclusively within the Public Employee Relations Board jurisdiction and must be dismissed. (Resp. to Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. at 15 (Docket No. 94).) Plaintiffs also agree that, because the union no longer deducts dues from plaintiffs' paychecks, plaintiffs' claims against the state defendants for declaratory and injunctive relief are moot and must be dismissed. (Resp. to State Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 2 (Docket No. 95).)[1] Accordingly, the only issue before the court is plaintiffs' claim that the continued deduction of fees after plaintiffs resigned their union membership violates plaintiffs' First Amendment rights, actionable under § 1983.

         II. Discussion

         A. Under Color of State Law

         A party may sue under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to remedy deprivations of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States only when that deprivation takes place “under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory.” See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982). Further, “[b]ecause the [Fourteenth] Amendment is directed at the States, it can be violated only by conduct that may be fairly characterized as ‘state action.'” Id. “Section 1983's under-color-of-state-law requirement and the Fourteenth Amendment's ‘state action' requirement are closely related.” Collins v. Womancare, 878 F.2d 1145, 1148 (9th Cir. 1989). “[C]onduct satisfying the state-action requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment satisfies the statutory requirement of action under color of state law.” Lugar, 457 U.S. at 935 n.18. Here, plaintiffs must meet both requirements. Accordingly, to determine if plaintiffs may sustain this claim under Section 1983, this court evaluates whether the conduct at issue constitutes state action under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Collins, 878 F.2d at 1148.

         B. State Action

         A plaintiff satisfies the Fourteenth Amendment's state-action requirement if “the conduct allegedly causing the deprivation of a federal right [is] fairly attributable to the State.” Lugar, 457 U.S. at 937; see also Caviness v. Horizon Cmty. Learning Ctr., Inc.,590 F.3d 806, 812 (9th Cir. 2010). “This fair attribution test has two components: a state policy and a state actor.” Roudybush v. Zabel, 813 F.2d 173, 177 (8th Cir. 1987). The state policy component requires that the deprivation be caused “by the exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or by a rule of conduct imposed by the state or by a person for whom the State is responsible.” Lugar, 457 U.S. at 937. The state actor component requires that “the party charged with the deprivation be a person who may fairly be said to be a state actor.” Id. Plaintiff must meet both prongs for there to be state action. Collins v. Womancare,878 F.2d 1145, 1151 (9th Cir. 1989). There is ...


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