United States: Ninth Circuit Upholds Strike Injunction Against Non-Union Employees

Executive Summary:The Ninth Circuit recently affirmed the decision of a federal trial court, which granted a strike injunction against unrepresented employees of Aircraft Service International, Inc., doing business as Aircraft Service International Group (ASIG). The Ninth Circuit held that the employees had a duty under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to engage in the Act's dispute resolution mechanisms before striking. Because they failed to do so, the court held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the injunction. Additionally, the court held that the injunction did not violate the employees' First Amendment rights because it furthered the important governmental interest of regulating the economic relationship between labor and management and was no greater than essential to the furtherance of that interest.

ASIG provides services to air carriers throughout the country, including at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac). At Sea-Tac, ASIG refuels approximately 75 percent of all commercial flights.

Working Washington, which describes itself as a coalition of individuals and advocacy groups, has been supporting efforts to get airline contractors at Sea-Tac to pay higher wages. In the fall of 2012, ASIG learned of a threatened job action by its employees at Sea-Tac, purportedly to protest the suspension of an ASIG fueler who allegedly had been active in "organizing" the employees and in speaking out on safety issues. In October 2012, Working Washington announced that the employees had decided to strike, and that the ASIG fuelers could go on strike at any time.

ASIG immediately filed a complaint in federal district court seeking to enjoin the strike as unlawful under the RLA. The district court granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the employees and Working Washington from striking and subsequently issued a preliminary strike injunction. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order.

Norris LaGuardia Act did not Deprive the Court of Jurisdiction

The Ninth Circuit held that the Norris LaGuardia Act (NLGA) did not deprive the court of jurisdiction to enjoin the strike. Generally, the NLGA withdraws jurisdiction from federal courts to enjoin strikes growing out of labor disputes. However, the NLGA does not deprive courts of jurisdiction to issue injunctions to ensure compliance with the provisions of the RLA. The court noted that Congress enacted the RLA to eliminate interruptions in interstate commerce caused by labor disputes between carriers and their employees. In accordance with that purpose, Section 2, First of the RLA requires all carriers and their employees to exert "every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules and working conditions, and to settle all disputes, whether arising out of the application of such agreements or otherwise" to avoid any interruption to commerce or the operation of the carrier arising out of disputes between the carrier and its employees.

The court held that the Section 2, First duty applies to all carrier employees. Because the employees conceded they were carrier employees, the court found that they had a duty under Section 2, First to make and maintain agreements and settle all disputes. The court held that "[s]triking without even attempting to appoint a representative and collectively bargain violates this duty."

The court rejected the employees' argument that Section 2, First is a policy, not an independent obligation. The court noted that both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have rejected this interpretation of Section 2, First. Further, the court held that the text of Section 2, First clearly indicates that its terms are to be regarded as a duty.

The court also rejected the employees' argument that Section 2, First does not apply to them because they are not represented by a union, holding that the text of that Section applies to "all carriers['] . . . employees." The court found that the employees were obligated to "exert every reasonable effort" to make labor agreements and settle labor disputes and that the provisions of the RLA provide the preliminary mechanism for doing so. According to the court, failure to acknowledge the connection between Section 2, First's duties and the RLA's procedures would permit carrier employees to "leverage their critical role in interstate commerce and exploit it in their quest for concessions" in contravention of the RLA's purpose.

The court found that the employees' decision to strike before appointing a representative and attempting to bargain collectively under the procedures of the RLA violated their duty under Section 2, First. The court held that before striking the employees must appoint a representative according to the procedures in the RLA, then they could settle their dispute with ASIG and shoulder their duty under Section 2, First. The court further noted that the employees in this case were not trying to deal independently with the employer; they were trying to strike, which they could do only if they had followed the RLA and carried out their duties under it. The court found that this case presents the "very situation for which Congress enacted the RLA: carrier employees threatening a strike capable of single-handedly interrupting interstate commerce by shutting down an airport." Accordingly, the court upheld the lower court's exercise of jurisdiction and issuance of the strike injunction, holding, "[s]imply because a group of carrier employees does not meet the typical unionized mold does not mean Congress intended their strike to be above the law."

The court also held that the NLGA did not deprive the lower court of jurisdiction because the employees failed to carry out their duties under the RLA, while ASIG had not shirked its own statutory duties. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit held that the lower court's exercise of jurisdiction was proper because the employees were covered by the RLA and had a legal obligation with which they had not complied.

No First Amendment Violation

The Ninth Circuit also held that the strike injunction did not violate the employees' First Amendment rights, noting that Congress has consistently held that actions inconsistent with the nation's labor laws generally are not protected by the First Amendment. A court can enjoin informational picketing in the midst of a labor dispute if the injunction "furthers an important or substantial government interest; if the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression; and if the incidental restriction on alleged First Amendment freedoms is no greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest." In this case, the injunction only prohibited the employees from striking against ASIG and prohibited both the employees and Working Washington from encouraging strikes. The court found that the employees could freely exercise their First Amendment rights in seeking better working conditions in ways other than striking. Thus, the Ninth Circuit held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the balance of equities favored ASIG and issuing the strike injunction. The defendants have requested that the court rehear the case en banc, but court has not issued a decision on that request.

Doug Hall, a partner in our DC office and member of FordHarrison's Airline Industry practice group, represented ASIG in this case. If you have any questions regarding this decision or other labor and employment issues impacting the airline industry, feel free to contact Doug at dhall@fordharrison.com or 202-719-2065. You may also contact any member of the Airline Industry practice group or the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Emails

From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.