United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
June 7, 1985
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL, PLAINTIFF,
UNITED AIR LINES, INC., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.
Before the Court is the defendant's motion to strike the
plaintiff's prayer for injunctive relief in a labor dispute.
For the reasons stated herein, defendant's motion is denied.
Plaintiff Air Line Pilots Association, International
("ALPA") filed this suit for injunctive relief under the
Railway Labor Act, as amended, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. ("RLA").
The suit alleges that various conduct of defendant, United Air
Lines, Inc. ("United") interfered with the collective
bargaining negotiations between the parties resulting in a
strike against United by ALPA. ALPA is the collective
bargaining representative under the RIA for captains, first
officers and second officers employed by United.
ALPA commenced its strike on May 17, 1985. The strike
followed the parties' exhaustion of the mandatory negotiation
and mediation procedures under the RLA and expiration of the
30-day statutory cooling-off period. 45 U.S.C. § 156. As its
last official act immediately prior to the commencement of the
cooling-off period, the National Mediation Board ("NMB")
proffered its services to arbitrate the dispute. On the same
day of the proffer, United rejected the arbitration proffer and
the NMB officially terminated its services. ALPA did not accept
the NMB proffer. The reasons for this nonacceptance are
The complaint alleges that United has engaged in a course of
conduct both before and during the strike consisting of
pervasive violations of basic rights of striking pilots under
the RLA. ALPA seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive
relief against United's unlawful conduct. The principal issue
between the parties turned on rates to be paid to new hire
pilots (the so-called "two tier" wage issue). While the
parties have worked out a compromise on
the two-tier wage issue, there remains the issue of a
back-to-work agreement and United's alleged unlawful conduct
in relation to that agreement and its underlying negotiations.
The key issues raised by the defendant's motion are (1)
whether ALPA must accept the NMB proffer before going into
court to obtain injunctive relief, even though United rejected
the proffer, and (2) if so, did ALPA fail to make every
reasonable effort to settle the dispute, before and during the
strike, when it did not accept the NMB proffer.
It is well settled that a party seeking injunctive relief
under the Railway Labor Act must comply with Section 8 of the
Norris-La Guardia Act. 29 U.S.C. § 108. Brotherhood of Railroad
Trainmen, Enterprise Lodge, No. 27 v. Toledo, P. & W. R.R.,
321 U.S. 50, 64 S.Ct. 413, 88 L.Ed. 534 (1944) ("Toledo R.R.").
Section 8 of the Norris-La Guardia Act provides:
No restraining order or injunctive relief shall
be granted to any complainant who has failed
to . . . make every reasonable effort to settle
such dispute either by negotiation or with the aid
of any available governmental machinery of
mediation or voluntary arbitration.
This provision is almost identical to Section 2, First, of the
RLA, which imposes on all parties the duty to make every
reasonable effort to settle the dispute. 45 U.S.C. § 152,
First. Since Section 8 is congruent with the RLA, the party
seeking injunctive relief under the RLA should be held to
Section 8's requirements. Local 553, Transport Workers v.
Eastern Air Lines, 695 F.2d 668, 679 (2d Cir. 1982).
The Supreme Court in Toledo R.R., supra, held that Section 8
would bar a complainant from injunctive relief if he had not
submitted the dispute to arbitration. Toledo R.R., supra, 321
U.S. at 63, 64 S.Ct. at 420; Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway
Company v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, 302 F.2d 540 (7th
Cir.), cert. denied, 371 U.S. 823, 83 S.Ct. 42, 9 L.Ed.2d 63
(1962). In Toledo R.R., the railroad, which sought the
injunctive relief, refused to agree to arbitration while the
union agreed to arbitrate the dispute. In reversing an
injunction issued in the railroad's favor, the Supreme Court
Arbitration under the Railway Labor Act was
available, afforded a method for settlement
Congress itself has provided, and until
respondent accepted this method it has not made
"every reasonable effort to settle" the dispute,
as Section 8 requires.
321 U.S. at 65, 64 S.Ct. at 421.
United interprets Toledo R.R. as an absolute bar to
injunctive relief where the complainant fails to accept
proffered arbitration. ALPA counters that Toledo R.R. does not
apply in a case where, as here, the complainant's opponent has
already rejected proffered arbitration, especially in light of
Brotherhood of Ry. and S.S. Clerks v. Florida East Coast Ry.
Co., 384 U.S. 238, 86 S.Ct. 1420, 16 L.Ed.2d 501 (1966)
("Florida East Coast "). While neither Toledo R.R. nor Florida
East Coast are directly on point, the Court rejects United's
broad interpretation of Toledo R.R. and adopts a more flexible
interpretation of the "clean hands" requirement to arbitrate
embodied in Section 8. Therefore, the Court holds that where,
as here, its opponent has rejected proffered arbitration after
both sides complied with the other requirements of the Railway
Labor Act, a complainant will not be barred from obtaining
injunctive relief merely because it failed to accept the
The Court finds support for its flexible interpretation of
Section 8 in the language of Florida East Coast. In that case,
while the parties were still under a collective bargaining
agreement, they rejected arbitration after exhaustion of
negotiation and mediation efforts. Thereafter, the union
commenced a lawful strike. In a footnote, the Supreme Court
pointed out that the case was not governed by Toledo R.R. and
its bar to injunctive relief because both the union and the
employer had rejected proffered arbitration prior to the
East Coast, supra, 384 U.S. at 247 n. 8, 86 S.Ct. at 1425 n. 8.
While the language in footnote 8 in Florida East Coast is
arguably dicta, it provides a strong indication of how the
Supreme Court would interpret Toledo R.R. and Section 8 in this
case. This flexible interpretation of Section 8 and narrower
interpretation of Toledo R.R. also finds support in Piedmont
Aviation, Inc. v. ALPA, 416 F.2d 633 (4th Cir. 1969). In that
case, both parties to the labor dispute either rejected or did
not respond to proffered arbitration. The Fourth Circuit Court
of Appeals distinguished Toledo R.R. from the case
before it on the same grounds which the Supreme Court discussed
in footnote 8 in Florida East Coast. In so holding, the Fourth
Circuit pointed out:
The second distinction between this case and
Toledo lies in the fact that here the union has not
accepted arbitration, while in Toledo it did. The
materiality of this distinction is suggested by
Brotherhood of Ry. & S. S. Clerks v. Florida E.C.
Ry., 384 U.S. 238, 247 n. 8 [86 S.Ct. 1420, 1425 n.
8, 16 L.Ed.2d 501] (1966). There the Court noted
that neither party accepted arbitration before the
strike, but nevertheless it allowed the employer
conditional relief to which it would not have been
entitled had the Toledo rule been applied.
416 F.2d at 638-39.
In light of Florida East Coast and Piedmont Aviation, the
Court holds that ALPA was not required to accept the NMB's
proffer of arbitration after United had rejected it. This
conclusion is consistent with notions of fairness and common
sense embodied in the rule that a mere formality or the
requirement to do that which is futile should not bar a
litigant from the relief it seeks. In addition, this conclusion
falls within a common sense definition of "reasonable efforts"
to settle disputes under the RLA and Section 8 of the Norris-La
Guardia Act. It would be an empty gesture and not commensurate
with common sense to require the complainant to accept the
proffer as a "reasonable effort" when the effort is doomed to
failure by virtue of the opponent's rejection of the proffer.
Therefore, the Court will not require a complainant to accept a
proffer, which its opponent has already rejected, in order to
comply with the reasonable efforts requirement of Section 2,
First of the RLA, and Section 8 of the Norris-La Guardia Act.
Finally, even if a broader interpretation of Toledo R.R.
should prevail, the Court finds that ALPA has satisfied the
reasonable efforts requirement by its negotiation prior to and
during the strike. These continuing efforts are best evidenced
in the settlement of the two-tier wage issue. ALPA has met
repeatedly at the bargaining table, has attempted to work out a
compromise, and has achieved a compromise on the two-tier wage
issue. These actions point to a continuing desire to make
reasonable efforts to settle the dispute under Section 8 of the
Norris-La Guardia Act and Section 2, First, of the RLA. Local
553, supra, 695 F.2d at 679.
For the reasons stated above, defendant's motion to strike
the plaintiff's prayer for injunctive relief is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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