United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. Lee United States District Judge.
Air Serv Corporation (“Air Serv”) has sued
Defendant Service Employees International Union, Local 1
(“the Union”), which represents Air Serv
employees who are assigned to work at the Chicago O'Hare
International Airport. Air Serv alleges violations of the
Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. § 151 et
seq., and moved for a temporary restraining order and
preliminary injunction enjoining the Union's officers,
agents, and members from engaging in a strike or similar
concerted action. For the reasons stated herein, as well as
for the reasons stated on the record during a hearing held by
this Court on November 28, 2016, Air Serv's motion for a
temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is
and Procedural Background
Serv is a Georgia corporation that provides aviation-related
services to commercial airlines at approximately fifty
airports nationwide. Compl. ¶ 13, ECF No. 1. Included
among these airports is the Chicago O'Hare International
Airport (“ORD”), where Air Serv employs
approximately five hundred employees who provide services to
United Continental Holdings, Inc. (“United”) as
well as to various international airway carriers affiliated
with United. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. Approximately
two hundred Air Serv employees working at ORD are currently
represented by the Union. Id. ¶ 21. These
employees work as wheelchair agents and electric cart drivers
at Terminals 2 and 5 of ORD. Id.
most recent collective bargaining agreement between Air Serv
and the Union became effective in June 2013 and expired in
June 2016. See Id. For the past several months, Air
Serv and the Union have been engaged in negotiations over a
new collective bargaining agreement. Id.
¶¶ 23-25. Unable to arrive upon mutually agreeable
terms, the Union announced in mid-November the possibility of
a strike involving hundreds of employees at ORD, including
Air Serv employees. Id. ¶ 27. On November 21,
2016, the Union confirmed that a strike would take place on
November 29, 2016. Id. ¶ 27.
to avoid the strike, Air Serv filed a complaint and an
emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and
preliminary injunction before this Court on November 28,
2016. After conducting a hearing, the Court denied Air
Serv's motion for the reasons stated on the record in
open court. The Court now elaborates upon those reasons in
the present Memorandum Opinion and Order.
preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy that is
“never to be indulged in except in a case clearly
demanding it.” Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc.
v. Girl Scouts of the USA, Inc., 549 F.3d 1079, 1085
(7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The party
moving for a temporary restraining order or preliminary
injunction bears the burden of making a clear showing that it
is entitled to the relief it seeks. See Goodman v. Ill.
Dep't of Fin. & Prof'l Regulation, 430 F.3d
432, 437 (7th Cir. 2005).
determining whether to grant a motion for a preliminary
injunction, courts engage in an analysis that proceeds in two
separate phases: a threshold phase and a balancing phase.
See Girl Scouts, 549 F.3d at 1085-86. To survive the
threshold phase, the party seeking a preliminary injunction
must show that it will suffer irreparable harm without the
injunction, that traditional legal remedies would be
inadequate, and that its claim has a likelihood of success on
the merits. Id. at 1086. If these threshold
requirements are not met, the motion for a preliminary
injunction must be denied. Id. If, however, the
moving party satisfies this initial threshold, the court
proceeds to the balancing phase, in which the moving party
must demonstrate that the harm that would be caused without
an injunction outweighs the harm that would be suffered by
the nonmoving party in the event the injunction is granted.
Serv seeks to enjoin the Union's members from engaging in
a strike on the ground that the RLA prohibits the Union from
striking in lieu of using other procedures to resolve its
dispute with Air Serv. Mem. Supp. at 6-12, ECF No. 8. In
response, the Union argues that the Court may not issue an
injunction under the RLA because Air Serv is not an entity
that falls within the scope of the RLA. Br. Opp. at 6-14, ECF
No. 14. The Court agrees with the Union that Air Serv has not
met its burden of showing it is entitled to relief under the
RLA. The Court therefore denies Air Serv's motion for a
temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
Two-Part Jurisdictional Test Under the RLA
general, the Norris-LaGuardia Act (NLGA), 29 U.S.C. §
101 et seq., strips courts of jurisdiction to enter
injunctions against labor unions in cases arising from labor
disputes, “express[ing] a basic policy against the
injunction of activities of labor unions.”
Int'l Ass'n of Machinists v. Street, 367
U.S. 740, 772 (1961). Where a challenged action violates the
RLA, however, “the specific provisions of the [RLA]
take precedence over the more general provisions of the
[NLGA], ” allowing a party to seek injunctive relief
that would otherwise be barred by the NLGA. United Air
Lines, Inc. v. Int'l Ass'n of Machinist &
Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, 243 F.3d 349, 362 (7th Cir.
2001) (quoting Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R.R. Co. v. Ry.
Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 490, 513
(1989)); see also United Air Lines, Inc. v. Air Line
Pilots Ass'n, Int'l, 563 F.3d 257, 274 (7th Cir.
2009). Accordingly, where a party moves for injunctive relief
under the RLA, “courts can issue injunctions to enforce
the RLA provisions at issue notwithstanding the NLGA.”
United Air Lines, 243 F.3d at 362.
applies to a company and its employees when the company is
“directly or indirectly owned or controlled by” a
rail or airway carrier engaged in interstate or foreign
commerce. 45 U.S.C. § 151. In making the threshold
determination as to whether a company is subject to the RLA,
courts have employed a two-part jurisdictional test developed
by the National Mediation Board (NMB), the federal agency
tasked with administering the RLA. See, e.g.,
Paulsen v. PrimeFlight Aviation Servs., Inc., 16 CIV
5338 (BMC), 2016 WL 6205796, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 24, 2016)
(citing cases applying the NMB's two-part test). This
test asks, first, whether the functions performed by the
company's employees are among those traditionally
performed by carrier employees, and second, whether the
company is directly or indirectly owned or controlled ...