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Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1593 v. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 19, 2019

AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 1593, Plaintiff,
v.
HILLSBOROUGH AREA REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM F. JUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes to the Court on Defendant Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority's (HART) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1593's (ATU) Amended Complaint. Dkt. 30. Plaintiff has responded in opposition. Dkt. 31. The Court DENIES Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a labor organization representing bus drivers and mechanics employed by Defendant, the government agency that provides mass transit in the Tampa area. Dkt. 29 ¶¶ 9-10. On February 13, 2019, Plaintiff and Defendant engaged in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. Id. ¶ 12. That day, Plaintiff held a rally at a public transit center in Tampa at which several union members distributed leaflets stating that Defendant's busing practices threatened worker and passenger safety and health. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff alleges that during the rally, a HART supervisor told at least two union members they would face disciplinary measures if they did not cease leafleting. Id. ¶ 20. The members immediately complied. Id.

         Later that day, HART CEO Jeff Seward sent an email to ATU Vice President Curtis Howard stating:

I have to say I am highly disappointed in ATU's approach to negotiating with HART, specifically today's rallying of our ATU membership to actively protest our organization on HART property. I have directed Ms. Lee and Mr. Brackin to ascertain the level of contract infraction this represents, as I won't tolerate this behavior by our employees, or the instigation of such behavior by your organization's non-HART employee members.

Id. ¶ 22. Defendant's counsel sent Howard a letter the same day stating that Defendant would sue Plaintiff and its “agents” if they did not cease their criticism of HART safety practices. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff alleges that on February 14, 2019 HART management placed a copy of that letter in the mailbox of every hourly employee to threaten litigation if Plaintiff and the employees continued to criticize Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 25-26.

         Plaintiff's sole count is for a First Amendment violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. ¶¶ 38-39. Though Plaintiff admits that Defendant has not taken any disciplinary or legal actions against Plaintiff or union members in response to the February 13 rally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant still exerts a chilling effect on Plaintiff's First Amendment rights. Id. The union members are now “more reluctant than before to participate in criticism of HART's safety practices, ” and Plaintiff is “unwilling to subject [its members] to disciplinary action” by encouraging them to participate in a similar rally. Id. ¶¶ 33-36.

         Plaintiff seeks a variety of relief, including declaratory and injunctive. Id. at 8-9. Defendant moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. 30 at 1.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss challenges a court's subject matter jurisdiction on either facial or factual grounds. McElmurray v. Consol. Gov't of Augusta-Richmond Cty., 501 F.3d 1244, 1251 (11th Cir. 2007). Because Defendant brings a facial attack against Plaintiff, the Court must see if Plaintiff “has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in his complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.” Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, Plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to bring a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). The Court accepts all factual allegations as true and views them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Courts limit their analysis to the “well-pleaded factual allegations, documents central to or referenced in the complaint, and matters judicially noticed.” La Grasta v. First Union Sec., Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         The Court finds that Plaintiff has standing and has stated a plausible First Amendment claim. The Court ...


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