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International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. Allegiant Travel Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

November 12, 2014

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AIRLINE DIVISION, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLEGIANT TRAVEL COMPANY, and ALLEGIANT AIR, LLC, Defendants

For International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airlines Division, Airline Professionals Assoc. of the IBT, Local Union No. 1224, Plaintiffs: Edward M. Gleason, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Edward Gleason, PLLC, Washington, DC; James Petroff, LEAD ATTORNEY, Barkan Meizlish, LLP, Cleveland, OH; Joshua D. McInerney, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Barkan Meizlish, LLP, Columbus, OH; Douglas Ward Hall, FordHarrison LLP, Washington, DC; Michael A Urban, Laquer, Urban, Clifford & Hodge LLP, Las Vegas, NV, Nathan R. Ring, The Urban Law Firm, Las Vegas, NV.

For Allegiant Air, LLC, Allegiant Travel Company, Defendants: Andrew Duncan McClintock, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ford & Harrison LLP, Atlanta, GA; Douglas Ward Hall, FordHarrison LLP, Washington, DC; Ross C Goodman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Goodman Law Group, Las Vegas, NV; Elizabeth Mercedes Rodriguez, Ford & Harrison LLP, Miami, FL.

ORDER

GEORGE FOLEY, JR., United States Magistrate Judge.

Motion to Compel - #97

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Compel Responses to Written Discovery (#97), filed on September 5, 2014. Plaintiff filed its Response (#105) on September 22, 2014 and Defendants filed their Reply (#110) on September 29, 2014. The Court conducted a hearing on this motion on October 9, 2014.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division/Airline Professionals Association of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union No. 1224 (hereinafter " IBT" or " Union") alleges that it is the exclusive bargaining " representative, " as defined by the Railway Labor Act (" RLA"), 45 U.S.C. § 151, Sixth, of the pilots employed by Defendant Allegiant Air. Complaint (#1), ¶ 4. The Union alleges that it was certified as the Allegiant pilots' exclusive bargaining representative by the National Mediation Board (" NMB") on August 24, 2012. ¶ ¶ 4, 8. Prior to that date, the pilots were represented by the " Allegiant Air Pilots Advocacy Group" (" AAPAG"). ¶ 8. In 2010, the AAPAG and Allegiant allegedly negotiated changes to a collective bargaining agreement titled " Pilot Work Rules" (PWR). The Pilot Work Rules " contained detailed provisions governing seniority, compensation, training, work scheduling, vacation and paid time off, leaves of absence, pay during illness, grievance processing, discipline, uniforms, and automation." ¶ 12.

The Union alleges that after it replaced the AAPAG as the exclusive bargaining representative of the pilots, it advised Allegiant of its intention to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement governing the pilots' rates of pay, benefits, work rules and other terms of employment. The Union and Allegiant have been in contract negotiations since December 2012. Id., ¶ 15. The Union alleges that Allegiant has violated the Railway Labor Act and breached the pre-existing collective bargaining agreement by unilaterally eliminating or changing specific provisions of the Pilot Work Rules described in ¶ 12 of the complaint, and by announcing its intention to unilaterally implement an entirely new and dramatically different flight scheduling system. The Union requests that the Court require Allegiant to restore and maintain the provisions of the Pilot Work Rules while the parties negotiate a new agreement, and/or engage in proceedings before the National Mediation Board. The Union also requests that Allegiant be ordered " to make whole each Allegiant pilot harmed by Defendants' breaches of the Allegiant-AAPAG pilot collective bargaining agreement and status quo." Complaint (#1), pg. 13 .

The Union filed its motion for preliminary injunction on March 3, 2014. In its opposition to that motion, Allegiant denied that the AAPAG was the pilots' collective bargaining representative or that the Pilot Work Rules constitute a binding collective bargaining agreement. Allegiant alleged that when the Union applied in June 2012 to represent the pilots, it certified to the National Mediation Board that the pilots were unrepresented and not subject to a collective bargaining agreement; and that based on this representation, the National Mediation Board conducted a representation election. Allegiant further alleges that the Union told the pilots they must vote for the Union because they were not represented and did not have a valid collective bargaining agreement. Allegiant also argued that the Pilot Work Rules state that it is not a contract and that any disputes as to how it is interpreted are decided exclusively by Allegiant. Opposition to Motion for Preliminary Injunction (#53), pgs. 1-2 .

On July 22, 2014, the Court granted the Union's motion for preliminary injunction. Order (#79) . The Court noted that the Railway Labor Act " defines the term 'representative' as 'any person or persons, labor union, organization, or corporation designated by either a carrier or group of carriers or by its or their employees to act for it or them." Order (#79), pg. 11 . The Court stated:

Under this definition, AAPAG was the pilots' representative. The pilots voted to create AAPAG. The preamble to AAPAG's Constitution and Bylaws states that the Constitution and Bylaws " provide [] the mechanism through which all member pilots are represented both individually and collectively." One of AAPAG's objectives, as stated in its Constitution and Bylaws, is " to make, determine, negotiate, maintain and/or improve employment agreements covering rates of compensation, hours of employment, work rules, benefits and working conditions for the members of the Association." This language certainly indicates that the pilots designated AAPAG to act for them. On Allegiant's side, the Chief Executive Officer (" CEO"), Maury Gallagher, stated in an open letter dated December 17, 2009 to Allegiant's pilots that " Management has a history of compromise with AAPAG" and that " Allegiant pilots have made significant gains in every new contract since 2001, " indicating that at least the CEO believed that Allegiant and AAPAG had formed binding contracts for the pilots. Most importantly, the PWR, which was executed by Allegiant's Vice President of Flight Operations, recognizes AAPAG as " the elected and representative body of the pilot group of Allegiant Air."

Order (#79), pgs. 11-12 .

The Court found that statements made by the Union before it was certified as the pilot's bargaining representative were not binding because the Union " did not yet represent the pilots and its statements cannot be imputed to them." The Court further stated that " [t]o the extent IBT made any post-certification statements concerning AAPAG's pre-certification status, IBT was not present during AAPAG's creation or during the years of AAPAG's relationship with Allegiant. It is thus dubious that IBT had sufficient information to determine whether AAPAG was the pilots' RLA representative, nor could IBT's statements serve to retroactively revoke AAPAG's prior representative status." Order (#79), pg. 12. The Court applied the same logic " to the IBT's application for NMB certification, which failed to indicate that AAPAG was the pilots' representative or that the pilots had an extant agreement." The Court stated that " [t]his application was obviously prepared before the IBT was certified. That no one corrected the IBT's on-site posting of the NMB application is of little moment, as it is unclear how many people saw or read the posting, and the presumptive focus of those who did read it would have been to make sure that the IBT was acting properly to become certified rather than whether the IBT had misstated AAPAG's status." Id.

The Court also rejected Allegiant's arguments that statements in a March 2012 AAPAG union organizing pamphlet demonstrated AAPAG's recognition that it did not have a binding agreement with Allegiant. The Court stated that the parties' subjective characterization of a document is not dispositive and that " it would be unreasonable to conclude that these statements by AAPAG served to repudiate the PWR such that is [sic] was no longer binding after March 2012." Id. pg. 13. The Court also rejected Allegiant's argument that its dealings with AAPAG did not convert AAPAG into an RLA representative, noting that the argument " conveniently ignores that Allegiant did precisely that in the PWR, by recognizing AAPAG as " 'the elected and representative body of the pilot group of Allegiant Air.'" Id. The Court also ...


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