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INT ASSOC OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS v. MEDIATION BOARD

June 20, 2005.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICARDO URBINA, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

I. INTRODUCTION

  This case comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction.*fn1 The plaintiff, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers ("IAM"), is a labor organization representing employees in the railroad industry. One of the defendants, the National Mediation Board ("NMB" or "Board"), is the federal agency currently mediating a labor dispute between IAM and the rail carriers represented by the National Carriers Conference Committee ("NCCC") pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. Defendants Edward J. Fitzmaurice, Jr. and Read Van de Water are members of the NMB board, and defendant Harry R. Hoglander is Chairman of the NMB. The plaintiff seeks an injunction to compel the defendants to terminate mediation and proffer arbitration in the labor dispute. The court denies the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction because the plaintiff fails to demonstrate that it is likely to succeed on the merits, that it will suffer irreparable harm, or that a preliminary injunction furthers the public interest.

  II. BACKGROUND

  In late 1999, IAM (the collective bargaining representative for nearly 8,000 rail carrier employees) and the rail carriers represented by NCCC exchanged notices proposing changes to collective bargaining agreements.*fn2 Compl. ¶ 8. From January 2000 to February 2001, IAM and the NCCC met for bargaining at least twelve times, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement on issues concerning wages and the size of the retroactive employee contribution to health and welfare. Id. ¶¶ 9, 12 — 13. The NCCC invoked the NMB's mediation services in February 2001.*fn3 Id., Ex. D. IAM and the carriers have been involved in the NMB mediation process since that time. Id. ¶ 11.

  Between February 2001 and January 2005, IAM and the NCCC attended thirteen NMB mediation sessions. Id. ¶¶ 12, 15. Representatives of the parties have also met privately with the NMB on a few occasions. Defs' Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Prelim. and Permanent Inj. Relief, Gibbons Decl. ¶ 33 ("Gibbons Decl."); Compl., Ex. G. In April 2002, IAM made a request that the NMB end mediation and proffer arbitration. Gibbons Decl. ¶ 29. A "proffer of arbitration" is an industry term describing the Railway Labor Act requirement that the NMB endeavor parties to submit their dispute to arbitration once its mediation efforts have failed. Pl.'s Mot. for Prelim. and Permanent Injunctive Relief, Reynolds Decl. ¶ 5 ("Reynolds Decl."). See also 45 U.S.C. § 155. IAM has requested that the NMB end mediation and proffer arbitration numerous times since the April 2002 request, including two additional times in 2002, four times in 2003, three times in 2004, and one time in 2005. Gibbons Decl. ¶ 29; Compl. ¶¶ 19-25, 27.

  Despite IAM's requests for a proffer, the NMB has not yet issued a proffer recommendation. In April 2004, NMB staff made a recommendation on the proffer request to the three NMB board members, defendants Hoglander, Fitzmaurice, and Van de Water. Pl.'s Reply Mem. in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot. for Prelim. and Permanent Injunctive Relief ("Pl.'s Reply") at 9. On April 20, 2004, Hoglander voted in favor of the proffer, and on May 4, 2004, Van de Water voted against the proffer. Reynolds Decl. ¶ 28. Board member Fitzmaurice did not vote on the proffer request. Id. Two Board members must vote in favor of the proffer request before the NMB may terminate the mediation process. Gibbons Decl. ¶ 33. To this day, Fitzmaurice has not voted on the proffer request. Pl.'s Reply at 9. Additionally, in mid-2004, Hoglander advised IAM that the NMB has been unable to issue a proffer recommendation because the other two Board members believe that the parties are still in negotiations. See Pl.'s Reply, Roach Decl. Ex. A. The plaintiff characterizes the NMB's refusal to proffer arbitration as akin to "imprisoning the union until it confesses that the Board knows better." Pl.'s Reply at 9. The parties' relationship is further complicated by a September 2004 e-mail exchange. Specifically, on September 15, 2004, a Union Pacific Railroad employee, James C. Miller, sent an e-mail to the NMB stating that he worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and that he belonged to a machinists' union in North Platt, Nebraska. Compl., Ex. K. Miller wrote, "5 years without a contract seems long enough, by Law should'ent [sic] this be resolved, is this not why the NMB was formed?" Id. Daniel Rainey, the head of the NMB's Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services, advised Miller that the NMB did not have an application for mediation between the Union Pacific Railroad and IAM. Id., Ex. L. As a result, Rainey directed Miller to "consult with [his] union representative regarding this matter." Id. Rainey's letter adds that Miller may wish to consult the union's procedures or a private attorney if he felt that his union was not representing his interests. Id.

  On April 20, 2005, the plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief along with a motion for a preliminary injunction. As of the date the complaint was filed, the dispute has been on the NMB's mediation docket for about four years. The court now turns to the preliminary injunction motion.

  III. ANALYSIS

  A. Legal Standard for Injunctive Relief

  This court may issue interim injunctive relief only when the movant demonstrates:

  (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that it would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) that an injunction would not substantially injure other interested parties, and (4) that the public interest would be furthered by the injunction. Mova Pharm. Corp. v. Shalala, 140 F.3d 1060, 1066 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (quoting CityFed Fin. Corp. v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 58 F.3d 738, 746 (D.C. Cir. 1995)); see also World Duty Free Americas, Inc. v. Summers, 94 F. Supp. 2d 61, 64 (D.D.C. 2000). It is particularly important for the movant to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. Cf. Benten v. Kessler, 505 U.S. 1084, 1085 (1992) (per curiam). Indeed, absent a "substantial indication" of likely success on the merits, "there would be no justification for the court's intrusion into the ordinary processes of administration and judicial review." Am. Bankers Ass'n v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 38 F. Supp. 2d 114, 140 (D.D.C. 1999) (internal quotation omitted).

  The four factors should be balanced on a sliding scale, and a party can compensate for a lesser showing on one factor by making a very strong showing on another factor. CSX Transp., Inc. v. Williams, ___ F.3d ___, 2005 WL 1023044 (D.C. Cir. May 3, 2005) (citing CityFed Fin. Corp., 58 F.3d at 747). "An injunction may be justified, for example, where there is a particularly strong likelihood of success on the ...


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