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Thulen v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 27, 2019

MICHAEL THULEN, JR, MICHAEL PORTER, and TERENCE GAUDLIP, Plaintiffs,
v.
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, NEW JERSEY COUNCIL 63, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 3790, TOWNSHIP OF LAKEWOOD, PHIL MURPHY, GURBIR GREWAL, JOEL M. WEISBLATT, PAUL BOUDREAU, PAULA B. VOOS, JOHN BONANNI, and DAVID JONES, Defendants.

          MOENCH LAW, LLC By: Matthew C. Moench, Esq.

          MACKINAC CENTER LEGAL FOUNDATION By: Patrick J. Wright, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiffs Michael Thulen, Jr., Michael Porter, and Terence Gaudlip

          ZAZZALI, FAGELLA & NOWAK, KLEINBAUM & FRIEDMAN By: Paul L. Kleinbaum, Esq.

          BREDHOFF & KAISER, PLLC By: Leon Dayan, Esq.; Ramya Ravindran, Esq. Counsel for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, New Jersey Council 63, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, Local 3790

          STATE OF NEW JERSEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL By: Melissa Dutton Shaffer, Assistant Attorney General; Jeremy M. Feigenbaum, Assistant Attorney General; Lauren A. Jensen, Deputy Attorney General; Jana R. DiCosmo, Deputy Attorney General R.J. Hughes Justice Complex Counsel for Phil Murphy, in his official capacity as Governor of New Jersey, and Gurbir Grewal, in his official capacity as Attorney General of New Jersey

          STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS COMMISSION By: Christine R. Lucarelli, General Counsel Counsel for Joel M. Weisblatt, Paul Boudreau, Paula B. Voos, John Bonani, and David Jones, in their official capacities as Chairman and members of the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action is brought in the wake of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, et al., 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018), which held that public sector unions could no longer deduct compulsory “fair share” agency fees from non-consenting employees. Based on that decision, Plaintiffs bring this action against Defendants American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ("AFSCME"), AFSCME New Jersey Council 63, and AFSCME Local 3790 (the "Union Defendants"), Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (the “State Defendants”), the members of the New Jersey Public Employee Relations Commission (the “PERC Defendants”), and the Township of Lakewood, seeking monetary and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged First Amendment violations.

         Plaintiffs in this case, Michael Thulen, Jr., Michael Porter, and Terence Gaudlip are building inspectors for the Township of Lakewood who are current or former members of their local AFSCME chapters. Plaintiffs argue that the First Amendment gives member employees a right to withdraw from the union and cease paying dues at any time, without restriction. On that point, Plaintiffs argue that the revocation requirements set forth in N.J.S.A. § 52:14-15.9e, as amended by the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act, P.L.2018, C.15, § 6, eff. May 18, 2018 (the “WDEA”), unconstitutionally restrict employees' First Amendment rights.

         For the reasons outlined herein, the Motions to Dismiss, filed by the PERC Defendants [Dkt. No. 37], the Union Defendants [Dkt. No. 38], and the State Defendants [Dkt. No. 39], will be GRANTED, and Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Declaratory Judgment [Dkt. No. 43] will be DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. The Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act

         Prior to May 2018, the revocation language in N.J.S.A. § 52:14-15.9e stated that public sector employees had a right to withdraw their union dues authorization through a written notice, effective as of January 1 or July 1, whichever was sooner.

         However, on May 18, 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act, P.L.2018, C.15, § 6, eff. May 18, 2018, which amended N.J.S.A. § 52:14-15.9e by striking ...


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