Unions representing public employees are not state actors absent evidence of meaningful State participation in the activity underlying the complaint
Callaghan v United Fedn. of Teachers, 2015 NY Slip Op 08049, Appellate Division, First Department
Supreme Court granted the United Federation of Teachers’ [UFT] motion to dismiss James V. Callaghan’s lawsuit alleging  violation of his “state constitutional right to free speech and  defamation. Callaghan appealed but the Appellate Division sustained the lower court’s action.
Addressing Callaghan’s complaint alleging a violation of his free speech rights, the Appellate Division, citing Ciambriello v County of Nassau, 292 F3d 307, explained that his claim fails as a matter of law as the UFT is a private entity and New York courts have consistently held that unions, even those representing public employees, such as the UFT, are not state actors.
Further, said the court, Callaghan’s conclusory allegation that the UFT acted in concert with a “state actor” is not sufficient to state a claim against the UFT. The court cited SHAD Alliance v Smith Haven Mall, 66 NY2d 496, in which the Court of Appeal held that in order for a plaintiff to maintain such an action the plaintiff would have to allege facts that would show that the State  "is so entwined with the regulation of the private conduct as to constitute State activity";  that "there is meaningful State participation in the activity"; or  that "there has been a delegation of what has traditionally been a State function to a private person."
As to Callaghan’s compliant alleging “defamation, “the Appellate Division ruled that the Supreme Court properly dismissed Callaghan’s cause of action for defamation explaining that “even to the extent that some of the statements about [Callaghan’s] disciplinary and professional history are assertions of fact, the statements were made by UFT officials in their official capacities, and they cannot be held liable for acts committed in their capacity as union representatives.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: