Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters v. Allegiant Air, LLC

Full title: INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AIRLINES DIVISION; AIRLINE…

Court: UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEVADA

Date published: Jul 22, 2014

Facts

In 2013, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airlines Division, and Airline Professionals Association of the IBT, Local Union No. 1224 sued Allegiant Air, LLC and Allegiant Travel Company in federal court under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The IBT seeks to restore the status quo working conditions that existed before August 2012, when the National Mediation Board certified the IBT as the exclusive bargaining representative for Allegiant pilots. The IBT alleges that Allegiant unilaterally changed some of the rules contained in the 2010 Pilot Work Rules Agreement, violating the RLA’s status quo protections. The IBT opposes four changes in work conditions: altering the Loss of Medical Certificate Protection program for pilots who become ill or disabled; eliminating pay protections for pilots engaged in collective bargaining negotiations; changing leave of absence provisions for birth and adoption; and replacing line bidding for pilot scheduling with a preferential bidding system. A fifth challenge, to the system-wide displacement of pilots upon Allegiant’s acquisition of a new aircraft type, has been rendered moot. The IBT asserts six claims for relief, five under the RLA and one for breach of contract.

The International Business Travel Association (IBT) is suing Allegiant for unilateral work rules changes, claiming they have not made every reasonable effort to maintain the PWR and settle disputes. The IBT also claims that Allegiant’s actions violate § 2, Fourth, which allows employees to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their choice. The IBT claims that Allegiant’s actions undermine its bargaining power and lower the starting point for negotiations. The IBT also claims a violation of § 204, which requires carriers and employees to establish a board of adjustment. Allegiant failed to establish a system board of adjustment in its work rules agreements with AAPAG, violating this section. The IBT moved for a preliminary injunction to restore the status quo under the PWR as of August 24, 2012.

Issue

(1) Whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction to enjoin Allegiant’s alterations of the status quo; (2) whether AAPAG was the pilots’ “representative” for purposes of the RLA; (3) whether the PWR is a binding “agreement” under the RLA; and (4) whether an injunction is warranted under the applicable legal standard, and, if so, the proper scope of the injunction.

Decision

Following the above and Rule 65, the parties are hereby enjoined as follows: 

1. The parties shall confer about the establishment of a board of adjustment following the Railway Labor Act to resolve the minor dispute concerning the proper interpretation of “company business.” Within 30 days of entry of this Order, the parties shall submit a joint brief or separate briefs outlining their agreement or respective proposals for the creation of such a board.

2. Parental Leave. Allegiant shall comply with the “Parental Leave” section of the PWR (PWR page 44, Section 6 – “Leaves of Absence”). Specifically, pilots shall have five “working” (rather than “calendar”) days off for such an event.

3. Loss-of-Medical-Certificate Program (“Light-Duty” Work). Allegiant shall reinstate the Loss-of-Medical-Certificate program, by the PWR. Specifically, Allegiant shall allow pilots who lose their medical certification to perform light work duty at their homes or near their base airports whenever practical—rather than mandating that they always perform light duty work in Las Vegas, Nevada—in accord with the PWR. If pilots are required to travel to Las Vegas for such work, or to another location that would require out-of-pocket travel costs, it shall be at the company’s expense. Allegiant is obligated to cover these costs as “company expenses” under the “Trip Adjustments” section of the PWR (PWR page 37, Trip Adjustments, Pilots Engaged in Official Company Business).

4. Pilot Scheduling. Allegiant shall modify its current Merlot pilot scheduling system to better respect pilot seniority and to provide greater transparency and predictability for the pilots. Allegiant shall make those modifications within 90 days of the date of this Order. In the meantime, Allegiant may continue to use the current version of Merlot. The parties shall submit status reports every 30 days on the progress of these modifications. The failure of either side to act in good faith likely will result in sanctions. At oral argument on the scope of the injunction, the parties agreed that the following points would guide their discussions:

A. Continuing the process of educating pilots regarding the bidding process in Merlot through additional Merlot Crew Days, identification of specific Allegiant personnel whom pilots could contact with bidding questions, establishment of a process by which answers to crewmembers’ questions are distributed to the entire pilot group. To the extent feasible, Allegiant should seek the direct participation of Merlot representatives in the educational process.
B. Establishing a means by which pilots could be provided with one-on-one assistance with the bidding process (e.g., a “help desk”).
C. Establishing a “standing bid” process by which a pilot would have a “default” bid which would be used for every subsequent month unless changed by the pilot (thus avoiding the risk that the pilot would be deemed not to have a bid at all and therefore be treated as an apathetic bidder).
D. Exploring the technological and operational feasibility of increasing the number and type of bid preferences available under Merlot.
E. Developing Merlot applications compatible with tablets and smart phones.
F. Enhancing the pilots’ ability to trade trips with each other, thereby allowing them to adjust their schedule more easily after lines are awarded.
G. Establishing a process by which pilots can obtain a meaningful explanation regarding why they did not receive their stated preference on a particular day.
H. Investigating the feasibility of allowing pilots to view (or even bid) two months in advance.

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