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FEDERAL FIREFIGHTERS ASSN., LOCAL 1 v. UNITED STAT

October 11, 1989

FEDERAL FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION, LOCAL 1, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants


Louis F. Oberdorfer, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: OBERDORFER

LOUIS F. OBERDORFER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 A Memorandum filed March 30, 1989, addressed some of the differences between the parties with respect to the application of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Act ("Transfer Act") and a lease implementing that act. See 49 U.S.C. §§ 2451-61. That Memorandum and an accompanying Order authorized plaintiffs to amend their complaint to challenge the constitutionality and statutory legality of the composition of a Board of Review which includes several members of Congress and exercises a veto power over actions of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's ("MWAA's") Board of Directors. In addition, plaintiffs move for a summary judgment that numerous provisions of a Labor Code adopted by the Authority are not authorized by the Transfer Act: (1) the establishment of an Employee Relations Council to resolve certain employer-employee disputes; (2) judicial review of the Council's decisions in the courts of Virginia; (3) provisions with respect to certain unfair labor practices; (4) an obligation on the union for so-called fair representation and financial disclosure to members; and (5) a provision precluding union security clauses in any contract. In addition, plaintiffs contend that the "no strike" provision considered in the March 30 Memorandum impinges on First Amendment rights to free speech.

 I.

 Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the Labor Code because it was submitted to the Authority's Board of Review which includes members of Congress. Involvement of Congressmen, according to plaintiffs, violates separation of powers principles as well as the presentment clause and the requirement that Congress act only by vote of the House and Senate. See U.S. Const. art. 1, § 7. Defendants point out, however, that although the Code was presented to the Board of Review, it took no action so that plaintiffs suffered no injury and have no standing to challenge the composition of the Board. Moreover, even if there were a cognizable case or controversy here, the issue of constitutionality has been resolved at the district court level favorably to defendants by Judge Joyce Green's thorough opinion in Citizens for the Abatement of Aircraft Noise v. MWAA, 718 F. Supp. 974 (D.D.C. 1989).

 II.

 Section 2454(c)(6)(D) of Title 49, United States Code, requires the MWAA to "continue all collective bargaining rights enjoyed before the date the lease takes effect by employees of the Metropolitan Washington Airports." Section 2456(c)(5) authorizes the MWAA "to make and maintain agreements with employee organizations to the extent that the Federal Aviation Administration is so authorized on October 18, 1986." Section 2457 requires MWAA to make "arrangements to protect the employment interests of employees" for five years, including but not limited to continuity of pre-existing labor agreements, job security, rates of pay, credit for accrued leave, and prescribed life insurance and health benefits. As Senator Sarbanes, a principal sponsor of the Transfer Act, explained, the Act "does not seek to expand [the employees'] rights. It only seeks to assure them." 132 Cong.Rec. 7,147 (1986). See also id. (statement of Senator Trible). The Lease executed between the Department of Transportation and MWAA authoritatively interpreted Congress' intent by providing that:

 
The Airport Authority shall adopt and maintain an employment code to assure (1) that the Airports Authority and all its transferring Employees, have the same rights and limitations with respect to labor agreements as the Federal Aviation Administration and its Employees enjoyed on October 18, 1986. . . .

 According to plaintiffs, application of this standard to the Employer Relations Council fails reasonably to replicate the dispute resolutions mechanism provided by the Federal Labor Relations Authority ("FLRA") for plaintiffs when the union members were FAA employees. The FLRA members are appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation. Only two of the three members may belong to the same political party. Its decisions are subject to judicial review in federal courts applying federal law. See 5 U.S.C. §§ 7104(a), (b), 7123. By contrast, plaintiffs contend, the Council panels are appointed by the General Manager of the Authority and compensated by MWAA; their decisions regarding unfair labor practices are reviewable, not in federal court applying well-developed federal law sympathetic to unions, but in the Virginia courts subject to Virginia law, not notably considerate of employees and unions. See MWAA Labor Code at §§ 4(a), 13(e) (February 1, 1989).

 An affidavit filed by defendants outlines a commendable exercise of the General Manager's authority in a way that should produce impartial panels of arbitrators. See Affidavit of Patricia Steven. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and the American Arbitration Association submitted a total of 75 names. See id. at para. 2. The Authority sent these lists to all five labor organizations representing MWAA employees. See id. at para. 3. A meeting of Authority and union representatives reached agreement on 15 names from these lists. See id. at paras. 5-7. An MWAA official then selected 9 from the agreed upon list of 15; of these 9, 5 had been originally proposed by the plaintiffs. See id. at para. 10.

 Plaintiffs nevertheless contend that the fact that the Labor Code vests in the MWAA the authority unilaterally to appoint arbitrators leaves the unions at an unfair disadvantage compared to their posture under the FAA regime. It would be different, plaintiffs say, if the Code provided for the selection of each arbitrator by mutual agreement of the parties. Moreover, plaintiffs indicate their willingness to share the cost of the arbitrators' compensation. They also vigorously challenge defendants' contention that the Transfer Act requires invocation of Virginia, as distinguished from federal, courts and law.

 It is not necessary or appropriate at this time to resolve the question of whether review of MWAA arbitration awards will lie in federal or Virginia courts (or both) and be governed by federal or Virginia law (or both). The Labor Code merely authorizes a complaining party to petition Virginia courts for enforcement of an award. See MWAA Labor Code at § 13(e). It does not and could oust the jurisdiction of a federal court if an action would otherwise lie there either to enforce an award or to vacate one and to invoke the supremacy clause to oust a Virginia court from jurisdiction. *fn1" The outcome of such a suit must, of course, await its filing. Nevertheless, the risk that Virginia may provide the forum and the controlling law obviously places the plaintiffs in a position different from that which obtained when their grievances were resolved by the FLRA subject to review in federal court under well-established federal law.


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