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Ochoa v. Service Employees International Union Local 775

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 15, 2019

CINDY ELLEN OCHOA, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION LOCAL 775, an unincorporated labor association, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT PUBLIC CONSULTING GROUP, INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND PUBLIC PARTNERSHIPS LLC'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          THOMAS O. RICE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant Public Consulting Group, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 19), and Defendant Public Partnerships LLC's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 20). The Motions were submitted for consideration with oral argument. The Court held a hearing on April 9, 2019 in Spokane, Washington. The Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Motions (ECF Nos. 19; 20) are granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The instant suit involves alleged wrongful withholding of union dues from Plaintiff Cindy Ellen Ochoa's wages. Ochoa is an “Individual Provider” (“IP”) who provides “in-home health care services to her disabled son, under RCW 74.39A.” ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶ 3. As an IP, Ochoa is employed by Governor Jay Inslee (the “State”) and is “classified as a public employee for collective bargaining purposes under RCW 41.56.” ECF No. 1 at 2-3, ¶ 3.

         Defendants Public Partnerships LLC (“PPL”) and Public Consulting Group, Inc. (“PCG”) (collectively, “Public”[1]) provide payroll services to the State[2], which include processing the payment of wages and related withholdings and deductions for IPs. ECF No. 1 at 4, ¶ 9, 7, ¶ 19; see ECF No. 19 at 2. As part of a collective bargaining agreement between the State and Service Employees International Union Local 775 (“SEIU 775”), the State directs Public to deduct union dues from the IP's wages and remit the funds to SEIU 775. ECF No. 1 at 3, ¶ 4. Apparently, the State “relies entirely” on SEIU 775 for determining from whom dues should be withdrawn and SEIU 775 directly provides the information to Public, who processes the information accordingly. ECF No. 1 at 13, ¶¶ 52-53, 19, ¶ 79; see ECF No. 36 at 19-20, ¶ 64 (clarifying Public receives a “deduction order [] from the union”).

         When Ochoa first began working as an IP in 2012, union dues were automatically deducted from every IP's pay. See ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 21. However, in 2014, the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn, 573 U.S. 616, 648-49 (2014) recognized non-union member IPs cannot be compelled to pay union dues. In light of this, Ochoa objected to the withdrawal of dues in July 2014; the withdrawals stopped at that time. ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 22. Ochoa does not complain about these initial withdrawals.

         1. First alleged violation: 2016-2017 withdrawals

         In October 2016 “Defendants began withdrawing union dues” from her pay, but “Ochoa only noticed this ten months later, in March 2017.” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 30. “As soon as [] Ochoa noticed the withdrawals, she began contacting SEIU 775 to have it stop.” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 31.[3] Ochoa “was first directed to a customer service line” and “[t]he woman [Ochoa] spoke with told [her] that SEIU 775 was withdrawing union dues from [her] salary because [she] had signed a union membership card.” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 31. “Ochoa informed the woman that she had not, and demanded that she be shown the card.” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 31. “SEIU 775 eventually sent [Ochoa] a copy of the electronic signature and card that [she] had allegedly signed, dated May 28, 2016.” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 32.

         “Ochoa immediately recognized that the signature was not her own [and] again contacted SEIU 775 and demanded that they stop withdrawing dues from her salary, and remit the amount taken from her.” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 33. “In June 2017, and after many attempts to have Defendants stop withdrawing dues from her, Adam Glickman, secretary treasurer of SEIU 775, sent Ms. Ochoa a letter” recognizing the electronic signature dated May 28, 2016 did not match her signature. Included with the letter was a check made out to Ms. Ochoa for $358.94. A month later, in July 2017, SEIU 775 sent a second letter to Ms. Ochoa, for an additional $51.12. ECF No. 1 at 9, ¶¶ 34-35. “Ochoa, through her attorney, rejected the checks sent to her by SEIU 775, so she could pursue her legal options.” ECF No. 1 at 11, ¶ 42. “From this point union dues stopped.” ECF No. 1 at 9, ¶ 35.

         Ochoa asserts a representative from SEIU 775 forged her signature. ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶ 1. Ochoa recalls that, “[o]n May 28, 2016, an SEIU 775 representative named ‘Vera' arrived on [her] porch at her home.” ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 24. “Vera presented Ms. Ochoa with an iPad and told [her] that [she] needed to sign the iPad to verify [her] contact information.” ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 25. Ochoa declined the request, but Vera “insisted” Ochoa sign. ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶¶ 26-27. “When Ms. Ochoa refused to sign, Vera became angry and walked away.” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 28. “As Vera walk away from the porch, Ms. Ochoa could see that Vera was writing something on the iPad. Ms. Ochoa yelled to Vera ‘do not change my info!'” ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 29.

         2. Second alleged violation: 2018 withdrawal

         Ochoa alleges that “[l]ess than a year after temporarily ceasing diverting Ms. Ochoa's wages to SEIU 775, Defendants again, in July 2018, began withdrawing dues from Ms. Ochoa's wages.” ECF No. 1 at 11, ¶ 43. According to Ochoa, “Defendants withdrew dues from [her] salary for July and August 2018 [and] have not fully refunded the monies taken from her.” ECF No. 1 at 11, ¶ 45. “As a consequence, Ms. Ochoa again had to contact SEIU 775 representatives numerous times to stop withdrawing dues from her wages.” ECF No. 1 at 11, ¶ 43. Ochoa does not allege any facts related to what gave rise to these withdrawals.

         3. Procedural history

         Ochoa brought this suit on September 24, 2018 against SEIU 775, PCG, PPL, Cheryl Strange, in her capacity as secretary of the DSHS, and Jay Inslee, in his capacity as Governor of the State of Washington. ECF No. 1 at 1. In “Count I” and “Count II”, Ochoa alleges “Defendants violated [her] First Amendment rights when it withdrew union dues absent her consent” in 2016-2017 and 2018, respectively, and seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and costs and attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. ECF No. 1 at 12 (heading; emphasis removed); 15, ¶ 56. In “Count III”, Ochoa requests a “declaratory judgment that Defendants violated her First Amendment rights by withdrawing union dues without her consent” and seeks “proper relief, to include [an] injunction[.]” ECF No. 1 at 16, ¶ 63. In Count IV, Ochoa alleges that “Defendants failed to provide minimal procedural due process to protect Ms. Ochoa's rights” and seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and costs and attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. ECF No. 1 at 17 (heading; emphasis removed), 18, ¶ 76. In “Count V”, Ochoa requests “declaratory and injunctive relief declaring that the dues withdrawal procedure . . . fails to meet minimum procedural safeguard requirements to protect [Ochoa's rights] . . . and ordering Defendants to cease abiding by such procedure.” ECF No.1 at 19, ¶ 82. In “Count VI”, Ochoa “seeks declaratory judgment that Defendants violated her First Amendment rights by failing to employ and abide by procedural due process safeguards protecting her rights” and ...


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