(CN) – American Airlines did not violate its contract with a pilots union by using non-union pilots for commuter flights, the D.C. Federal Court ruled.
Under a collective bargaining agreement with the Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines maintains a “Pilots Seniority List” to determine flying assignments. Pilots on the list have a contractual right to do almost all of the airline’s flying.
One exception provides that American can use non-listed pilots for commuter flights, as long as it maintains 7,300 “listed” cockpit crewmembers overall. Pilots added to the list through seniority mergers do not count toward the requirement.
In August 2008, Allied Pilots claimed that American had dropped below the cockpit crewmember standard because furloughed pilots and others not on the list did not count. That included pilots on medical, disability, or military leave, pilots not represented by the union, pilots employed by American Eagle, and pilots from the acquisition of Reno Air and TWA, according to the ruling.
An Adjustment Board approved by both parties rejected all of Allied Pilots’ arguments, and determined that American had over 11,300 pilots on its seniority list.
Allied Pilots challenged the decision, arguing that the board “applied its own brand of industrial justice [and] exceeded the scope of its jurisdiction.”
Judge Paul Friedman explained the court’s deferential standard for assessing the board’s decision: “In reviewing the arbitration award, a court asks only ‘whether the arbitrator was even arguably construing or applying the contract.'”
The court affirmed the board’s decision.
“[B]ecause the Board reached its decision by construing the [the collective bargaining agreement], it is not the task of this court to correct the board’s interpretation, even if that interpretation was ‘badly mistaken,'” Friedman wrote.