Cunningham v. Air Line Pilots Ass’n, Int’l

After Continental and United Air Lines merged, they needed to produce unified seniority and longevity rosters for pilots. The Air Line Pilots Association represents all of the pilots. In 2012 the new United and the Union reached an agreement that sets pilot pay based on: rank (captain vs. first officer), type of aircraft flown, and longevity, defined as all time since the date a pilot was hired, including time spent on furlough. Pre-merger, pilots on furlough accrued seniority but not longevity. Plaintiffs challenged ancillary Agreement 25, under which pilots in active service longer than four years and seven months would receive no credit for furlough time; pilots who had four years and six months of service could claim only one month of furlough; and so on. Plaintiffs claimed that the provision slots 475 former United pilots into the table behind former Continental pilots who were hired before May 6, 2008, in violation of the main agreement, and accused the Union of inadequate representation (DFR claim). Defendants replied that the main agreement governs the future, after Agreement 25 determines the pilots’ starting positions. The district judge dismissed United as a party because disputes about the meaning of an airline industry collective bargaining agreement are within the exclusive authority of an adjustment board under the Railway Labor Act, leaving plaintiffs unable to establish both that United violated the contract and that the union did not represent workers fairly. They then argued that the Union negotiated a bad contract. The district court concluded that Agreement 25 is not irrational. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that, with pilots on different sides of the issue, a compromise that favored some over others was inevitable.View "Cunningham v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l" on Justia Law