LAS VEGAS (CN) - An "imminent" strike by Allegiant Air pilots would leave passengers stranded and disrupt commerce in violation of federal law, the airline claimed Monday in a federal lawsuit against the Teamsters.
The airline and the union have hit a "major dispute" in negotiating a new collective bargaining contract, Allegiant says. It claims that the union has "called, encouraged, and supported" an "imminent strike" by pilots, which would "violate the very purpose of the Railway Labor Act."
"One of the express purposes of the Railway Labor Act is to 'avoid any interruption to commerce or to the operation of any carrier engaged therein,'" Allegiant says.
The airline claims that it provides a unique service by flying from smaller cities to "leisure destinations" only on specific days of the week.
"If the threatened strike took place, Allegiant's passengers might have no alternative to get to their destinations" or "would have to pay for expensive, last-minute tickets that might make several stops," the airline claims.
It says that the Railway Labor Act "imposes a duty on 'all carriers, their officers, agents, and employees to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, and working conditions, and to settle all disputes ... in order to avoid any interruption to commerce or to the operation of any carrier growing out of any dispute.'"
For pilots to strike, Allegiant says, they first must exhaust the Railway Labor Act's major dispute resolution process, which is "'virtually endless'" and '"purposely long and drawn out.'"
But Allegiant claims that "remarkably," the union "has acknowledged that is has no legal right to strike based on the major dispute process" but "has concocted what it tellingly refers to as 'Plan B,' under which it would call a pilot strike. ... "In short, IBT [the International Brotherhood of Teamsters) intends to strike, one way or another, in an effort to bring Allegiant to its knees at the bargaining table."
The union has accused Allegiant of "violating the Railway Labor Act's status quo requirements" and claims "the right to resort to self-help," the airline says.
"A fatal flaw in that argument, however, is that the IBT already raised its status quo arguments before this court in prior litigation," and a federal judge ruled "that Allegiant was not required to return to the status quo due to the logistical difficulties and damage that Allegiant would incur if required to do so," according to the complaint.
In August last year, the Teamsters said in a statement that a federal judge had ordered the airline to restore two of four work rules for pilots that Allegiant changed after the union began representing its pilots in 2012.
"The altered working conditions included a loss of medical certificate protection program for pilots who become ill or disabled; pay protections for pilots engaged in collective bargaining negotiations; leave-of-absence provisions for birth and adoption of a child; and the bidding system used for pilot scheduling," the Teamsters said in a statement under union letterhead.
The union said the court ordered Allegiant to abide by a 2010 labor contract's parental leave rule and loss of medical certificate program. "It also directed Allegiant and the IBT to try to reach agreement within 30 days on the establishment of a board of adjustment to arbitrate the dispute over pay protections for pilots engaged in collective bargaining negotiations," according to the statement.
The Teamsters also said that the court "directed the company to modify its new pilot scheduling system within 90 days to better respect seniority and provide greater transparency and predictability, but it did not order it to return to its previous scheduling system as requested."
In its Monday lawsuit, Allegiant says it complied with the court order but appealed it to the 9th Circuit.
"Having gone to court to obtain injunctive relief regarding its status quo contentions, IBT cannot now argue that the same alleged status quo violations justify" a strike, Allegiant says. "That is a matter for the court that issued the order to decide, not a basis for a strike."
Allegiant seeks an injunction against a strike or work slowdown, plus attorney's fees and legal costs.
Its lead counsel is Ross Goodman.
Teamsters Local 1224 officials were not available for comment Monday.
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