Bruce Beckington; John Jurik; James Van Sickle, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
American Airlines, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
and Submitted March 27, 2019 San Francisco, California
from the United States District Court for the District of
Arizona D.C. No. 2:17-cv-00328-JJT John Joseph Tuchi,
District Judge, Presiding
Harper (argued) and Andrew S. Jacob, ASU Alumni Law Group,
Phoenix, Arizona, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.
A. Siegel (argued) and Chris A. Hollinger, O'Melveny
& Myers LLP, Los Angeles, California; Paul D. Jones,
American Airlines Inc., Forth Worth, Texas; for
Before: A. Wallace Tashima, Susan P. Graber, and Jay S.
Bybee, Circuit Judges.
panel affirmed the district court's dismissal for failure
to state a claim of an action brought by airline pilots,
seeking damages under the Railway Labor Act against their
employer for allegedly "colluding" with a union in
the union's breach of its duty of fair representation.
2005, U.S. Airways and America West Airlines merged to form a
single carrier, which kept the name U.S. Airways. The Air
Line Pilots Association represented both the U.S. Airways
Pilots (the "East Pilots") and the America West
pilots (the "West Pilots"). The East Pilots and the
West Pilots engaged in a seniority dispute that went to
arbitration. The East Pilots formed a new union, the U.S.
Airline Pilots Association ("USAPA"), which became
the bargaining representative for all the pilots. In
Addington I, a group of West Pilots alleged that
USAPA breached its duty of fair representation by failing to
pursue implementation of the arbitration award, known as the
"Nicolau Award." In Addington II, U.S.
Airways sued USAPA and the West Pilots, seeking declaratory
relief. In anticipation of a merger between U.S. Airways and
American Airlines, the two airlines, USAPA, and the union for
American's pilots negotiated a memorandum of
understanding ("MOU") addressing pilot seniority.
In Addington III, a group of West Pilots alleged
that USAPA breached its duty of fair representation by
including in the MOU Paragraph 10(h), which abandoned the
Nicolau Award. The court of appeals reversed the district
court's judgment after trial in part, holding that USAPA
breached its duty of fair representation by inserting
Paragraph 10(h) into the MOU. In arbitration pursuant to the
MOU, the arbitration panel issued a decision declining to
implement the Nicolau Award and using a different methodology
for integrating the pilots' seniority lists.
West Pilots filed Addington IV, seeking damages
under the Railway Labor Act for U.S. Airways's
"collusion" in USAPA's breach of its duty of
fair representation. Affirming the district court's
dismissal, and disagreeing with the Seventh Circuit, the
panel held that employees aggrieved by a union's breach
of its duty of fair representation during collective
bargaining cannot sue their employer for
"colluding" in the union's breach. The panel
concluded that nothing in the Railway Labor Act's text or
collective bargaining framework supported expansion of the
doctrine that a union owes its constituents a duty of fair
representation. The panel held that the pilots' suit was
different from a hybrid suit, in which employees sue both
their employer and their union, because the pilots made no
allegation that their employer breached its own obligations
under a collective bargaining agreement.
Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. §§
151 et seq., authorizes employees in the railroad
and airline industries to select a union to act as their
exclusive representative for collective bargaining with their
employer. As exclusive bargaining representative, the union
assumes a duty to "represent fairly the interests of all
bargaining-unit members during the negotiation,
administration, and enforcement of collective-bargaining
agreements." Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers v.
Foust, 442 U.S. 42, 47 (1979). If the union breaches its
duty of fair representation, aggrieved employees have a cause
of action against the union that is "judicially
'implied'" under the RLA. Id. (citation
omitted). The question in this case is whether those
employees may also sue their employer under the RLA for
allegedly "colluding" with the union in the
union's breach of duty. We conclude that the answer is
begin with some background on the RLA, which "cannot be
appreciated apart from the environment out of which it came
and the purposes which it was designed to serve."
Burlington N. R.R. Co. v. Bhd. of Maint. of Way
Emps., 481 U.S. 429, 444 (1987) (quoting Elgin,
Joliet & E. Ry. Co. v. Burley, 325 U.S. 711, 751
(1945) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting)).
in 1926, the RLA followed "decades of labor unrest"
in the railroad industry that threatened "wasteful
strikes and interruptions of interstate commerce."
Id. at 444, 450 (citation omitted). Disputes over
wages and working conditions led to boycotts and strikes
capable of shutting down large swaths of the nation's
railways. See Charles M. Rehmus, Evolution of
Legislation Affecting Collective Bargaining in the Railroad
and Airline Industries, in The Railway Labor Act at
Fifty 1, 2-7 (Charles M. Rehmus ed., 1977). States were
largely unable to regulate rail lines that extended beyond
their borders, see Wabash, St. Louis & Pac. Ry. Co.
v. Illinois, 118 U.S. 557, 577 (1886), and
Congress's prior efforts at prescribing various dispute
resolution mechanisms were unsuccessful, see Int'l
Ass'n of Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S. 740, 755-57
& nn.11-12 (1961). The strikes in many cases turned into
violent riots, which often led to sweeping strike injunctions
and, in some cases, intervention by federal troops. Wayne L.
McNaughton & Joseph Lazar, Industrial Relations and
the Government 33, 95-109 (1954); see, e.g.,
In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 582-83 (1895); King v.
Ohio & Miss. Ry. Co., 14 F. Cas. 539, 540-42 (C.C.D.
Ind. 1877) (No. 7, 800); United States v. Ry.
Emps.' Dep't of Am. Fed'n of Labor,
283 F. 479, 492-96 (N.D. Ill. 1922).
1926, the major railroads and railroad unions recognized the
need for a peaceful and effective framework for resolving
labor disputes, and after a remarkable series of conferences
and negotiations between them, both sides agreed on a bill
that Congress enacted into law. Railway Labor Act, Pub. L.
No. 69-257, 44 Stat. 577 (1926); see Tex. & New
Orleans R.R. Co. v. Bhd. of Ry. & S.S. Clerks, 281
U.S. 548, 562-63 & n.2 (1930). Congress substantially
amended the RLA in 1934, see Street, 367 U.S. at
759-60, and in 1936 extended its "benefits and
obligations" to the "then small-but-growing air
transportation industry," Int'l Ass'n of
Machinists v. Cent. Airlines, Inc., 372 U.S. 682, 685
(1963); see 45 U.S.C. §§ 181-188.
endeavors "to promote stability in labor-management
relations by providing a comprehensive framework for
resolving labor disputes." Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.
v. Norris, 512 U.S. 246, 252 (1994). At "[t]he
heart" of its framework is 45 U.S.C. § 152, First,
which requires labor and management "to exert every
reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning
rates of pay, rules, and working conditions, and to settle
all disputes . . . in order to avoid any interruption to
commerce or to the operation of any carrier growing out of
any dispute between the carrier and the employees
thereof." Bhd. of R.R. Trainmen v. Jacksonville
Terminal Co., 394 U.S. 369, 377-78 (1969) (alteration in
original) (quoting 45 U.S.C. § 152, First). To that end,
the RLA subjects all labor-management "disputes to
virtually endless 'negotiation, mediation, voluntary
arbitration, and conciliation, '" Burlington
N., 481 U.S. at 444 (citation omitted), with the precise
procedure dependent on the nature of the underlying claims,
see Alaska Airlines Inc. v. Schurke, 898 F.3d 904,
916-17 (9th Cir. 2018) (en banc), cert. denied, 139
S.Ct. 1445 (2019). And to implement this framework, the RLA
prescribes a process of collective bargaining "between
the carriers on the one hand and the employees through their
unions on the other." Street, 367 U.S. at 760
a fundamental component of the RLA's design is the right
of employees "to organize and bargain collectively
through representatives of their own choosing." 45
U.S.C. § 152, Fourth. Employers must "treat
with" the employees' designated bargaining
representative,  id. § 152, Ninth, which is
chosen by a majority of the employees in a particular
"craft" or bargaining unit, id. §
152, Fourth. Employers are prohibited from
"interfer[ing] in any way with the organization of
[their] employees"; using employer funds to
"maintain or assist or contribut[e] to any labor
organization [or] labor representative"; and influencing
the "designation of representatives." Id.
§ 152, Third, Fourth. In certain circumstances,
employees can sue their employer for violating these
statutory commands. See, e.g., Virginian Ry. Co.
v. Sys. Fed'n No. 40, 300 U.S. 515, 548-49 (1937)
(refusing to bargain with designated union); Ass'n of
Flight Attendants v. Horizon Air Indus., Inc., 280 F.3d
901, 904-06 (9th Cir. 2002) (interfering with right to
organize); Barthelemy v. Air Lines Pilots Ass'n,
897 F.2d 999, 1015-16 (9th Cir. 1990) (per curiam) (providing
financial assistance to union). And "willful"
violations can result in criminal sanctions. 45 U.S.C. §
union is chosen by a majority of the employees in a
bargaining unit, the union's bargaining power is
"exclusive." Steele v. Louisville &
Nashville R.R. Co., 323 U.S. 192, 194 (1944). The union
"act[s] on behalf of all the employees"
within its bargaining unit, a position that "operates to
exclude any other from representing" the employees and
prohibits employees from "bargain[ing] individually on
behalf of themselves as to matters which are properly the
subject of collective bargaining." Id. at
199-200 (emphasis added). The union's exclusivity,
moreover, imposes on the employer an "affirmative duty
to treat only with the [selected union], and hence
the negative duty to treat with no other." Virginian
Ry., 300 U.S. at 548 (emphasis added). Thus, by
"empower[ing] unions to bargain exclusively for all
employees in a particular bargaining unit," the RLA
"subordinate[s] individual [employee] interests to the
interests of the unit as a whole." Foust, 442
U.S. at 46.
course, with great power comes great responsibility. Although
the union is selected by a majority vote, the Supreme Court
has held that, once selected, the union's authority as
exclusive bargaining representative carries with it "a
correlative duty 'inseparable from the power of
representation'" to "represent fairly the
interests of all bargaining-unit members during the
negotiation, administration, and enforcement of
collective-bargaining agreements." Id. at 46-47
(emphasis added) (quoting Steele, 323 U.S. at 204).
The duty of fair representation thus acts "as a
'bulwark to prevent arbitrary union conduct'"
against individual employees, id. at 47 (quoting
Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 182 (1967)), who
otherwise would have "no means of protecting their
interests" at the bargaining table other than to strike,
a result the RLA was specifically designed to avoid,
Steele, 323 U.S. at 200-01. To fulfill its duty of
fair representation, the union is required "to serve the
interests of all members without hostility or discrimination
toward any, to exercise its discretion with complete good
faith and honesty, and to avoid arbitrary conduct."
Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l v. O'Neill,
499 U.S. 65, 76 (1991) (quoting Vaca, 386 U.S. at
177). A union therefore "breaches its duty of fair
representation if its actions are either 'arbitrary,
discriminatory, or in bad faith.'" Id. at
67 (quoting Vaca, 386 U.S. at 190); see Demetris
v. Transp. Workers Union of Am., 862 F.3d 799, 805-08
(9th Cir. 2017).
Supreme Court has also held that employees have a
"judicially 'implied'" cause of action
under the RLA against their union for breaching its duty of
fair representation. Foust, 442 U.S. at 47 (quoting
Steele, 323 U.S. at 204). "[R]esort to the
courts" is necessary in such circumstances, the Court
has explained, because the RLA does not contain any
administrative mechanism for aggrieved employees to remedy
the breach or "secure separate representation for the
purposes of collective bargaining"; without a cause of
action against the union, the right to fair representation
"would be sacrificed or obliterated."
Steele, 323 U.S. at 206-07. Thus, employees can ...