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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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American Airlines Union Dispute Kicked to Curb

(CN) - American Airlines mechanics unhappy with their employer's contract with the Transportation Workers Union lack standing to sue, a federal judge ruled.

Fort Worth-based American merged with US Airways last year after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011.

Mechanics narrowly ratified the TWU contract during the bankruptcy, defeating a contingent that preferred representation by the American Mechanics Fraternal Association.

The contract runs through September 2018 and will not be up for renegotiation until September 2016.

Gary Peterson and others brought a federal class action in Washington last year, claiming TWU breached its duty of fair representation and violated their voting rights under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

They claimed that TWU favored mechanics who work at American's main maintenance base in Tulsa, Okla., at the expense of company mechanics elsewhere. American is not a party in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claimed the union negotiated to "inflict disproportionate losses on what it viewed as troublesome dissenters," and that its leadership was "openly hostile" during negotiations with leaders of non-Tulsa local unions.

Instead of trying to invalidate the contract or seek monetary damages, the plaintiffs asked for declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction stopping TWU from using the alleged unfair practices in future negotiations.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper tossed the lawsuit on Monday for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In addition to being unripe, the mechanics' suit failed to identify "any impending injury that could be prevented by the relief they seek," Cooper said.

"Given the distinct possibility that the TWU will not be the exclusive bargaining representative in negotiations over the next CBA, and the lack of information regarding when and how negotiations can be expected to unfold, plaintiffs have not demonstrated a substantial risk that TWU's alleged favoritism towards the Tulsa mechanics in the last round of system-wide bargaining will reoccur," the 12-page opinion states. "This source of alleged future injury is therefore insufficient to establish standing."

The mechanics failed to show that the union's proposal for a joint-negotiation council in the future will nonetheless give TWU influence detrimental to their interests, according to the ruling.

"Plaintiffs have not alleged who the TWU representatives on the joint council will be; how the TWU's stance might be adverse to the plaintiffs' interests; or, even if it proves to be adverse, whether the TWU representatives would be in a position to compel the joint council to engage in the types of unfair practices alleged in the second amended complaint," Cooper wrote. "Given these uncertainties, the possibility that the TWU might harm the Plaintiffs via its influence over any future joint council is too speculative to satisfy Article III standing requirements."

Cooper also disagreed that the suit is necessary to protect the mechanics from unfair treatment in the current collective-bargaining agreement. The mechanics said continuing negotiations "on a variety of subjects" exposes them to potential harm.

"Yet the second amended complaint fails even to mention any specific day-to-day negotiations, let alone allege injuries stemming from them," Cooper wrote. "Although the court may examine evidence outside the complaint to decide a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs still have not meet their burden to allege likely injury arising from day-to-day representation."

TWU representatives could not be reached for comment late Tuesday evening. American did not respond to a request for comment.

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