Pilot Instructors Want $7 Million From Union
DENVER (CN) - The Air Line Pilots Association owes United pilot instructors more than $7 million in back pay, four instructors claim in a federal class action.
Lead plaintiff Gerald Elwell claims the Air Line Pilots Association International violated the Railway Labor Act by misappropriating $400 million in retroactive pay it owed to pilots and instructors who worked for (nonparty) United Airlines from 2010 to 2012.
During that time, pilots and instructors accrued back pay as the airline and union haggled over a collective bargaining agreement to replace the deal that expired in 2009.
When a new deal finally was struck, United paid the $400 million its employees were owed after three years in limbo, according to the complaint.
But the class claims the defendant union allocated only $225 million of the payment for retroactive pay, though it "knew at the time it received the lump sum that the lump sum would not be nearly enough to provide all United pilots with 100 percent of the retroactive pay they should have received."
The class claims the union decided to pay most United pilots what they were owed, but to shaft the pilot instructors.
"ALPA devised a 'General Rule' for how to distribute the retroactive pay to the United pilots," the complaint states. "The General Rule was that the calculation of retroactive pay for a particular pilot would be based on a percentage of a number that ALPA named the so-called 'Delta Differential.'
"The General Rule, through the Delta Differential, arbitrarily relied on what the particular United line pilot would have earned under the 2008 Delta Airlines Pilot Working Agreement. Thus, rather than determining actual retroactive pay owed to United pilots using the 2012 UPA [United's collective bargaining agreement] that had just been adopted, ALPA arbitrarily chose to determine the retroactive pay based on what the same United pilot would have earned under the Delta PWA [pilot working agreement] as though the pilot were flying for Delta Airlines during 2010, 2011, and 2012."
The class of United pilot instructors claims the application of the arbitrary "Delta Differential" was itself a breach of the union's duty of fair representation to its members, and that that they were subjected to more injustice when the union applied a different version of the equation to the instructor class alone.
"Although ALPA through its United MEC [Master Executive Council] devised the above General Rule, ALPA through its United MEC arbitrarily chose to use a different method for allocating retroactive pay to the PIs. As a result, the PIs will receive a disproportionately small share of the $225 million lump sum compared to the other United line pilots," the complaint states.
"Inexplicably, the PIs' retroactive pay was calculated on an arbitrary exception to the General Rule, using a different methodology to determine the PIs' 'Delta Differential,' without any reference to what a Delta pilot instructor would be paid under the 2008 Delta PWA and ignoring what a pilot instructor actually makes under the new 2012 UPA."
The class claims that most United pilots would receive $54.83 per hour worked between the collective bargaining agreements, while United pilot instructors would get less than one-third of that: $17.32 per hour.
The difference comes to about $7 million, the class of 130 pilot instructors claims.
The class claims it tried to solve the matter internally, but the union chose an arbitrator who was "paid purely by ALPA and who had a long history of working for ALPA."
The class claims arbitrator denied its claims without explanation.
They seek retroactive pay and damages for violations of the Railway Labor Act.
They are represented by Richard Paul III, with Paul McInness, of Kansas City, Mo.