United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
DERRICK K. WATSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
alleges the violation of her First Amendment rights against
compelled association and speech in the context of union
representation. Compl., Dkt. No. 1. Specifically, Count I
alleges that the Hawai‘i Government Employee's
Association (HGEA or Union) has refused both to allow
Grossman to withdraw from the Union and to return her dues.
Count II alleges that Hawai‘i's exclusive
representation structure compels Grossman's association
with the Union and imputes the Union's speech to her,
including with respect to viewpoints in which she disagrees.
move to dismiss Count II, as barred by Minnesota State
Bd. for Cmty. Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271 (1984),
and Mentele v. Inslee, 916 F.3d 783 (9th Cir. 2019).
Motion to Dismiss (Motion), Dkt. No. 27; Reply in Support of
Motion (Reply), Dkt. No. 43. Because the Court agrees,
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II is GRANTED without
leave to amend.
is an admissions officer at the University of Hawai‘i
at Hilo and, as such, is a public sector employee. Compl., at
5. HGEA is the certified exclusive representative of certain
University employees, including Grossman, for collective
bargaining purposes. Id. at 6. By statute, the
exclusive representative “shall be responsible for
representing the interests of all [bargaining unit employees]
without discrimination and without regard to employee
organization membership.” Hawai‘i Revised Statute
(HRS) §89-8(a). This statutory requirement is the basis
of Grossman's claim in Count II. Grossman alleges that
the exclusive representation structure results in compelled
speech because the Union's statements, whatever they may
be, are ascribed to University employees, such as herself,
irrespective of Union membership and irrespective of whether
they share the Union's views.
December 20, 2018, Grossman initiated this action seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983
and 28 U.S.C. §2201(a). On February 11, 2019, HGEA filed
a Motion to Dismiss Count II, arguing that Grossman failed to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted because her
claims in Count II are foreclosed by controlling precedent.
Defendants Lassner and Suzuki joined in the Motion. Dkt. Nos.
38, 40. Grossman filed an opposition, and Defendants timely
replied, also offering supplemental authority. Dkt. Nos. 41,
43-44. The Court found these matters suitable for disposition
without a hearing, pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), and thus
vacated the previously-scheduled hearing on the Motion. Dkt.
No. 45. This disposition follows.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to
dismiss a complaint that fails “to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Rule 12(b)(6) is read in
conjunction with Rule 8(a), which requires “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Pursuant to
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “[t]o survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). In addition, “the tenet that a court
must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”
Id. Where it appears “beyond doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims
which would entitle him to relief, ” the motion to
dismiss should be granted without leave to amend. Bain v.
California Teachers Ass'n, 891 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th
Cir. 2018) (internal quotes and citations omitted.).
Count II of the Complaint, Grossman challenges HRS
§§89-7(b) and 89-8(a). Together, these provisions
grant exclusive representation of Hawai‘i government
employees in collective bargaining to a single employee
organization-here, HGEA. Grossman asks this Court “to
recognize and acknowledge that…neither the government
nor the union can claim the union is representing non-members
in its negotiations with the government” because to do
so "would violate Grossman's First Amendment right
to freedom of association." Opp. at 2. In moving to
dismiss this claim, Defendants argue that Knight and
Mentele foreclose Grossman's First Amendment
challenge. The Court agrees that each of these decisions,
binding on this Court, preclude Count II. As such, Count II
is dismissed for failure to state a claim under Rule
challenges the provisions of state law that allow a single
employee organization, such as HGEA, to be "responsible
for representing the interests of all [bargaining unit]
employees without discrimination and without regard to
employee organization membership.” Opp. at 2. The
Supreme Court in Knight considered a similar
Minnesota law that “establishe[d] a procedure, based on
majority support within a unit, for the designation of an
exclusive bargaining agent for that unit." According to
Minnesota law, where such an agent was selected, "the
employer may neither ‘meet and negotiate' nor
‘meet and confer' with any members of that
bargaining unit except through their exclusive
representative.” Knight, 465 U.S. at 274. The
exclusive representative structure in Knight
contemplated that not every individual employee would agree
with the views of the employee's peers or exclusive
representative on every policy question, nor would every
employee in the bargaining unit be a member of the exclusive
representative. See Id. at 276.
Minnesota law and the exclusive representation structure it
gave rise to in Knight are materially
indistinguishable from those here: Hawai‘i requires
that a designated, exclusive representative bargain on behalf
of public sector employees on employment-related matters,
recognizing that some of those employees are not members of
and may disagree with the position of the exclusive
representative. Such a system, according to the Supreme
Court, does not violate the First Amendment because "The
state has in no way restrained appellees' freedom to
speak on any education-related issue or their freedom to
associate or not to associate with whom they please,
including the exclusive representative. Nor has the state
attempted to suppress any ideas." Knight, 465
U.S. at 288-290.
with Knight, Grossman argues that Knight no
longer represents good law after Janus v. Am. Fed'n
of State, Cty., & Mun. Employees, Council 31, 138
S.Ct. 2448, 2456 (2018). See Opp. at 11-12.
Janus struck down an Illinois law which
“forced” public employees to “subsidize a
union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to
the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and
related activities.” Id. at 2460. The Court
concluded that “this arrangement violates the speech
rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize
private speech…” Id. (emphasis
in the Janus' reasoning, however, calls into
question the holding in Knight regarding exclusive
representation. Indeed, much of Janus suggests the
Court's intent to cabin its holding to the propriety of
compelled union fees. For instance, the Court noted that the
elimination of unconstitutional union fees would not
undermine the constitutionally-permissible exclusive
representative structure, despite its "significant
impingement on associational freedoms that would not be
tolerated in other contexts." Janus, 138 S.Ct.
at 2478. It is plain that Janus'
holding is limited to the question of compelled
fees, expressly overruling the Court's precedent
to the contrary.Id. at ...