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Peterson v. Transport Workers Union of America

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

December 1, 2014

GARY PETERSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, Defendant

Page 132

For GARY PETERSON, GARY SCHAIBLE, LARRY PIKE, BRUCE ROHR, TROY RHOADS, Plaintiffs: Lucas K. Middlebrook, Stanley J. Silverstone, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, SEHAM, SEHAM, MELTZ & PETERSEN, LLP, White Plains, NY; Nicholas P. Granath, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, SEHAM, SEHAM, MELTZ & PETERSEN LLP, Minneapolis, MN; James R. Klimaski, KLIMASKI & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Washington, DC.

For TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, Defendant: Evan Hudson-Plush, Michael L. Winston, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, COHEN, WEISS AND SIMON, LLP, New York, NY; Joseph Vitale, LEAD ATTORNEY, COHEN, WEISS AND SIMON, LLP, New York, NY; Richard S. Edelman, LEAD ATTORNEY, O'DONNELL, SCHWARTZ, AND ANDERSON, Washington, DC.

Page 133

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

This putative class action is the latest skirmish in a long-running dispute among mechanics at American Airlines over which union should represent them. Following American's bankruptcy in November 2011, its mechanics narrowly ratified a collective bargaining agreement between the airline and the Transportation Workers Union (" TWU" ). A group of American mechanics who would prefer to be represented by another union--the American Mechanics Fraternal Association (" AMFA" )--has filed suit over the process that led to the ratification of that agreement. They contend that in negotiating the agreement with the airline, TWU leadership favored mechanics who work at American's principal maintenance base in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the expense of Plaintiffs and others who work elsewhere. This preferential treatment, they allege, breached the union's duty of fair representation and violated their voting rights under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages or the invalidation of the collective bargaining agreement. They request instead a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction requiring the TWU to refrain from the alleged unfair practices in future contract negotiations. Because Plaintiffs have not identified any impending injury that could be prevented by the relief they seek, the Court concludes that they lack standing to bring this suit. For similar reasons, the Court also concludes the suit is unripe. The Court therefore will grant the TWU's motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Background

Plaintiffs and their proposed class members are part of a " craft or class" of mechanics and related employees at American Airlines.[1] They and workers in six other employee classifications are represented by the TWU. Second Amended Complaint ¶ 18 (" SAC" ). Roughly half of the mechanics and related employees perform heavy maintenance and overhaul aircraft at American's primary maintenance base in Tulsa, Oklahoma. SAC ¶ 24. The others work at other maintenance bases in Fort Worth or Dallas, Texas, or perform lighter " line" service at airports served by

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American throughout the country. SAC ¶ ¶ 22-23.

Soon after filing for bankruptcy protection in November 2011, American took steps to reject its collective bargaining agreement (" CBA" ) with the TWU and renegotiate a modified agreement. American's first " last best offer" during the negotiations proposed to eliminate almost 4,000 line and maintenance base jobs. SAC ¶ 57. This offer failed a ratification vote. SAC ¶ 58. After further negotiations, American's second " last best offer" proposed to save 1,439 jobs at the Tulsa maintenance base from the 2,358 that would have been eliminated under the prior offer. SAC ¶ 60. Non-Tulsa maintenance base workers and line mechanics, however, saw their job losses increase slightly from the first to the second offer. SAC ¶ 62. Largely on the support of employees at the Tulsa maintenance base, a CBA reflecting American's second offer was ratified by the narrowest of margins: 50.25% to 49.75%. SAC ¶ 78. The CBA went into effect in the fall of 2012 following bankruptcy court approval. SAC ¶ 80. The agreement runs through September 2018 and will not be subject to renegotiation until September 2016. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss Ex 12.

The CBA negotiations described above followed a history of sparring between the TWU and AMFA. In 1998, 2003, and earlier in 2012, AMFA had organized campaigns to replace TWU as the collective bargaining representative of American's mechanics and related employees. SAC ¶ ¶ 26, 33. See Opinion and Order, Schalk v. Transp. Workers Union, No. 03-804, 2007 WL 1310171, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 3, 2007) (describing a bitter rivalry between AMFA and TWU over representation of American mechanics). Each of those drives failed, according to Plaintiffs, because the Tulsa mechanics consistently opposed any switch to AMFA. SAC ¶ ¶ 24, 33. Several TWU members have been removed from leadership positions in the union due to their public support of AMFA. SAC ¶ ¶ 30-32.

Against that historical backdrop, Plaintiffs allege the TWU engaged in a number of unfair practices during the 2012 CBA negotiations to protect its supporters in Tulsa and inflict disproportionate losses on what it viewed as troublesome dissenters. They claim TWU leadership was " openly hostile" during the negotiations to the presidents of the non-Tulsa local unions, whom it considered to be loyal to AMFA. SAC ¶ 42. Plaintiffs also contend that the TWU allowed the Tulsa local to negotiate directly with American bargaining representatives, resulting in reduced job losses and improved working conditions, while other locals were denied this access. SAC ¶ ¶ 49, 64. When it came time for ratification, Plaintiffs maintain the TWU refused to hold meetings outside the Tulsa base to educate members about the proposed offer. SAC ¶ 77. The TWU's " fail[ure] to devote time and effort" on behalf of the line mechanics and non-Tulsa maintenance workers, according to ...


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