United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
August 31, 2005.
ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS-CWA, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN EAGLE AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO
("AFA"), filed suit against Defendant, American Eagle Airlines,
seeking an order to compel Defendant to comply with the terms and
conditions of the decision and award of the American Eagle System
Board of Adjustment ("System Board"). Presently before the Court
is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter
A reading of Plaintiff's Complaint supports the following
summary of the alleged conduct of the parties.
American Eagle is an Illinois corporation engaged in interstate
commerce as a common carrier under the Railroad Labor Act
("RLA"). AFA is a labor organization that represents
approximately 1,600 flight attendants employed by American Eagle.
American Eagle and the AFA are parties to a collective bargaining
Section 10(M) of the CBA provides that "a flight attendant may
request paid personal vacation days of up to six days per year.
The Company [American Eagle] may grant such days if staffing permits." Section 10(N) of the CBA provides that "a
flight attendant who has requested and been granted time off by
her/his supervisor and is unable to make up the lost time will be
given the option to convert the lost time to a personal vacation
day." Under the CBA, American Eagle and the AFA resolve
grievances in a final and binding arbitration before a
three-member board of the System Board.
American Eagle and the AFA began arbitration in 2002 to settle
a dispute as to whether American Eagle could deny a flight
attendant's request to convert personal time off into a paid
vacation day. In April 2004, the System Board issued an award
drafted by arbitrator LaRocco ("LaRocco award"), finding that
whether or not a flight attendant may exercise the option of
converting personal time off into a paid vacation day rests with
the flight attendant's own judgment. The arbitration award found
that the Defendant was in violation of Section 10(N) of the CBA
in its refusal to allow a flight attendant to convert personal
time off to a paid vacation day.
During the Winter of 2004, AFA represented flight attendants
who requested to take paid vacation days. American Eagle denied
the requests due to a shortage of staff. At least fifteen flight
attendants took personal time off and later sought to convert the
personal time off into paid vacation days per the LaRocco award.
American Eagle denied the requests.
American Eagle argues that the AFA's action to enforce an
arbitrator's ruling should be dismissed because this Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. The AFA argues that
the dispute was previously settled in arbitration by the LaRocco
In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court reviews all facts
alleged in the complaint and any inferences reasonably drawn
therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir.
2000). In determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists,
the court may also look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of
the complaint and review whatever evidence has been submitted on
the issue. See Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554
(7th Cir. 1999).
Labor disputes involving unions are governed by the RLA. The
RLA was designed to "avoid any interruption to commerce or to the
operation of any carrier engaged therein" and "to provide for
prompt and orderly settlement of all disputes concerning rates of
pay, rules, or working conditions." 45 U.S.C. § 151a.
The RLA sets out a complete framework for the resolution of
labor disputes, which includes a mandatory arbitration mechanism
for the swift and systematic settlement of two types of disputes,
major disputes and minor disputes. Monroe v. Mo. P.R.R. Co.,
115 F.3d 514, 516 (7th Cir. 1997) (Monroe). Major disputes
relate to the creation or changing of collective bargaining
agreements or attempts to secure collective bargaining
agreements. See Pawlowski v. N.E. Regl. Commuter R.R. Corp.,
186 F3d 997, 1000 (7th Cir. 1999). Major disputes seek to create
contractual rights. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris,
512 U.S. 246, 253 (1994) (Hawaiian Airlines); Monroe, 115 F.3d at 516.
Minor disputes involve discrepancies concerning the meaning of an
existing collective bargaining agreement in a specific fact
situation and are said to "grow out of grievances or out of the
interpretation or application of agreements covering rates of
pay, rules, or working conditions". See 45 U.S.C. § 151(a);
Hawaiian Airlines, 512 U.S. at 252. A minor dispute is
distinguishable from a major dispute in that it can be
conclusively resolved through the interpretation of the existing
collective bargaining agreement. Brown v. Ill. C.R.R. Co.,
254 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001) (Brown). "Where an employer
asserts a contractual right to take the contested action, the
ensuing dispute is minor if the action is arguably justified by the terms
of the parties' collective bargaining agreement. Where, in
contrast, the employer's claims are frivolous or obviously
insubstantial, the dispute is major." Consolidated Rail Corp. v.
Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 299, 307 (1989). A
minor dispute is subject to compulsory and binding arbitration
before the National Railroad Adjustment Board or by an adjustment
board established by the employer and the unions representing the
employees. Consolidated Rail Corp., 491 U.S. at 303. "If an
arbitral award raises bona fide interpretation questions in the
wake of post arbitration conduct, those inquiries must be
satisfied by the appropriate adjustment board, not by a district
court." American Train Dispatchers Dep't of the Int'l Bhd. of
Locomotive Eng'rs v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., 857 F.Supp. 1276,
1280 (N.D.Ill. 1994).
Plaintiff seeks an order enforcing the LaRocco award in light
of American Eagle's failure to convert certain flight attendants'
personal time off to paid vacation days as required by the
LaRocco award. The AFA Complaint alleges that the decision to
convert personal time off to a paid vacation day rested with the
flight attendant, not American Eagle. The AFA further alleges
that certain flight attendants took personal time off and then
attempted to convert those days off to paid vacation days as
contemplated by the CBA and LaRocco award and that American Eagle
refused to honor the flight attendants' requests because the
flight attendants took the personal time off only after they were
refused paid vacation days.
American Eagle contends that the AFA's action constitutes a
minor dispute because the parties disagree as to whether a flight
attendant can convert personal time to a paid vacation day when
the personal time was taken after American Eagle denied a paid
vacation day request due to staffing concerns. However, the AFA
seeks to enforce the LaRocco award's ruling alleging that the conversion of personal time off to a paid vacation day rests with
the flight attendant. American Eagle's failure to honor the
request because paid vacation days were previously denied may
constitute a defense (a minor dispute requiring arbitration
instituted by the Defendant) to converting personal time off to
paid vacation days, but it is separate and apart from the AFA's
attempt to enforce the LaRocco award. American Eagle's possible
defense does not negate the AFA's allegations that the flight
attendants received personal time off and later sought to convert
that time to paid vacation days as contemplated by the LaRocco
award. Accordingly, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction
over this dispute.
For the reasons stated above, the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is denied.
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