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International Bhd. of Teamsters v. Allegiant Air, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 8, 2015

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AIRLINES DIVISION; AIRLINE PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATION OF THE IBT, LOCAL UNION NO. 1224, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
ALLEGIANT AIR, LLC; ALLEGIANT TRAVEL COMPANY, Defendants-Appellants

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California February 2, 2015.

Page 1081

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1082

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. D.C. No. 2:14-cv-00043-APG-GWF. Andrew P. Gordon, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Labor Law

The panel vacated the district court's preliminary injunction in a union's action against an airline under the Railway Labor Act.

The district court preliminarily enjoined the airline from making policy changes to pilot work rules during the negotiation of a new contract between the union and the airline following the National Mediation Board's certification of the union as the pilots' representative.

The panel held that the district court had jurisdiction because the case did not raise a representation dispute, and there was no jurisdictional bar preventing the court, rather than the Board, from determining whether a previous advocacy group was a representative within the meaning of the RLA. The panel concluded that it was not reviewing the Board's finding that the pilots were previously unrepresented. In addition, the airline had waived the argument that the Board's finding was entitled to preclusive effect.

The panel concluded that the Allegiant Air Pilots Advocacy Group, which had negotiated and agreed to the work rules prior to the union's certification as the pilots' representative, was not an RLA representative because it sought neither Board certification nor voluntary recognition. Accordingly, the pilot work rules were not a collective bargaining agreement under the RLA. The panel held that the district court erred in entering an injunction because the RLA does not require an airline to maintain the status quo during negotiations of an initial labor agreement.

Douglas W. Hall, Ford Harrison LLP, Washington D.C., for Defendants-Appellants.

Edward M. Gleason Jr., Law Office of Edward Gleason, PLLC, Washington, D.C.; Michael A. Urban and Nathan R. Ring (argued), The Urban Law Firm, Las Vegas, Nevada; James Petroff, Barkan Meizlish LLP, Columbus, Ohio, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Before: Richard C. Tallman and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Circuit Judges, and Stephen Joseph Murphy, III, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 1083

Stephen Joseph Murphy, District Judge:

I. INTRODUCTION

Allegiant Air is an airline operating from Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2004, Allegiant's employees organized a pilot advocacy group (the Allegiant Air Pilots Advocacy Group, or " AAPAG" ) and elected representatives to bargain with the airline on their behalf. Over the next few years, AAPAG and Allegiant negotiated and agreed to several different Pilot Work

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Rules, detailed documents that outlined Allegiant's policies and work conditions. In 2012, some pilots decided they wanted to unionize. The Teamsters expressed interest in representing the pilots and petitioned the National Mediation Board (the Board) to certify them as the pilots' bargaining representative under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The Board conducted a secret ballot of the pilots and then certified the Teamsters as the pilots' RLA representative. Shortly thereafter, Allegiant changed several policies contained in the Work Rules without consulting the Teamsters.

The Teamsters brought suit. They sought a preliminary injunction that would prevent Allegiant from making any policy changes to the Pilot Work Rules while they negotiated a new contract. The Teamsters contend the AAPAG, its predecessor negotiating on behalf of the pilots, was a representative under the RLA. They argue that the Pilot Work Rules were a collective bargaining agreement. And they assert here that the district court properly enjoined Allegiant from altering the agreement until the parties complete the RLA mandated mediation process.

Allegiant disagrees. It contends the district court did not have jurisdiction to determine whether AAPAG was an RLA representative when it executed the Work Rules. It argues that even if the district court did have jurisdiction, AAPAG was not an RLA representative, but merely an informal employee advocacy group. It contends that the Work Rules are not a collective bargaining agreement, the policy modifications are at most differing interpretations of those Work Rules, and an injunction is inappropriate because the Teamsters have not demonstrated irreparable harm.

The district court found that it had jurisdiction over the dispute. It determined the AAPAG was an RLA representative, reasoning that the employees had elected AAPAG for the purpose of negotiating terms of employment with the carrier. It therefore enjoined Allegiant from making several policy changes until the parties had completed RLA mandated mediation. And it ordered the parties to create a Board of Adjustment to arbitrate the remaining issues.

We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1). We conclude that AAPAG was not an RLA representative. We therefore vacate the injunction and remand the case.

II. BACKGROUND

In 2004, Allegiant grew tired of having " 50-odd pilots constantly trumping through the office" with individual complaints. To solve the problem, management approached several senior pilots and asked them to form an organization that could channel employee grievances and provide pilot input. The senior pilots talked with their colleagues and a short while later thirty-five pilots met at PT's Pub in Las Vegas to create AAPAG.

Over the next few years, Allegiant grew rapidly, doubling the number of pilots and expanding its flights to new destinations. AAPAG grew with the company. The pilots annually elected officers who helped interview applicants, advocated for employees during grievance disputes, and discussed pay and work conditions with Allegiant's management.

AAPAG's stated mission was to communicate pilot concerns to management, and it described itself as a " consulting agency on issues relating to the pilot group." For several years, pilots and management enjoyed a good relationship. Allegiant allowed AAPAG to give Power Point presentations to new hires. When pilots had pay or ...


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