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UNITED STATES v. PROFESSIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLL

August 11, 1981

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
PROFESSIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ORGANIZATION INC., et al., Defendants. Alexander T. GRAHAM, Plaintiff, v. PROFESSIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ORGANIZATION INC., et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREENE

MEMORANDUM ORDER

On August 3, 1981, the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), and a number of its individual officers from taking part in a strike and from engaging in other enumerated acts. Later the same day, the Court found PATCO and its president, Robert Poli, to be in civil contempt for failing to comply with provisions of the temporary restraining order, it imposed a schedule of fines, and it specified certain acts through which the defendants might purge themselves of the contempt. A hearing was held on August 10, 1981, on various applications and motions which had in the meantime been filed by the parties. These motions will be discussed below under three headings: requests for preliminary injunction, further contempt proceedings, and motions relating to the Controllers Benefit Fund.

 I

 The United States and the Federal Labor Relations Authority *fn1" are requesting that the Court issue preliminary injunctions in their respective cases. Both plaintiffs recognize that the strike itself has ended under the circumstances described below, infra at pp. 163-164, and they concede that their request for further injunctive relief is therefore primarily concerned with two collateral matters-alleged interference by defendants with air traffic and the possible disposition by defendants of the so-called Controllers Benefit Fund.

 The evidence adduced at yesterday's hearing as to actions on the part of defendants which allegedly served to disrupt the orderly continuance of air traffic shows that any such disruptions have been minimal. There was testimony to the effect that picket lines were established at the nation's major air traffic control centers; that such picket lines slowed the entry into these centers of several non-striking controllers and other personnel but did not prevent anyone from reporting to work or from performing his job; and that some persons were subjected to insulting remarks as they entered their places of work. But there is no evidence of defendants' having engaged in massive activities having the effect of substantially interfering either with air traffic or with government employees desirous of operating the air control system, and it appears that domestic air traffic is proceeding without significant difficulty, albeit at a reduced rate. Plaintiffs' showing falls far short of the irreparable injury necessary to support a nationwide injunction of the kind requested here.

 It is also relevant in this connection that the United States has had available to it, and has used during the past week, the services of local law enforcement officials to deal with whatever minor incidents that may have occurred in connection with the picketing activities. Thus, to the extent that defendants are faced with problems, they do not lack other adequate remedies, *fn2" and there is therefore no need for extraordinary equitable relief.

 The second aspect of the injunctive relief requested relates to disbursements from the Controllers Benefit Fund. No evidence whatever has been introduced to the effect that defendants have plans improperly to distribute any monies from that fund. Moreover, to the extent that the Court is being requested to immobilize the fund on the basis of a suspicion that defendants might wish to dissipate it, the short answer is that the fund has already been attached pursuant to an order of a federal court in New York and is thus not in immediate jeopardy in any event.

 Although plaintiffs have made a greater showing on the issue of likelihood of success on the merits, at least some jurisdictional problems do exist in that area, in addition to the overriding problem of possible mootness as a consequence of the termination of the strike. Whatever may be the ultimate decision on those issues, however, the failure of plaintiffs to demonstrate irreparable injury militates strongly against the issuance of an injunction. See Virginia Petroleum Jobbers Association v. FPC, 104 U.S. App. D.C. 106, 259 F.2d 921 (D.C.Cir.1958). *fn3"

 For these reasons, the applications of plaintiffs for preliminary injunctions are denied. *fn4" At the same time, however, the Court is also denying defendants' motion to dismiss these actions. In the event that plaintiffs are able to demonstrate hereafter that PATCO, the individual defendants, or others in concert with them, are engaged in activities which result in a substantial interference with air traffic or with government employees engaged in controlling such traffic, they are free to petition the Court for appropriate injunctive relief based upon the existing lawsuits. Denial of the preliminary injunctions at this time is without prejudice to such future petitions.

 II

 In its order holding the union and its president in contempt, the Court directed that, in order to ensure compliance with the temporary restraining order, fines would be imposed upon defendant PATCO as follows:

 
(a) in the event that PATCO is not in compliance by 8:00 p.m. on August 4, 1981, a fine of $ 250,000;
 
(b) in the event that PATCO is not in compliance by 8:00 p.m. on August 5, 1981, an additional fine of $ 500,000;
 
(c) in the event that PATCO is not in compliance by 8:00 p.m. on August 6, 1981, an additional fine of $ 1 million ...

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