Federal Judge Orders Cargo Pilots to Go Back to Work

CINCINNATI (CN) – A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order to ABX Air Inc. and ordered 250 cargo pilots to end a strike that began two days before Thanksgiving.

In a ruling filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black called the parties’ dispute over time off for pilots “minor,” and ordered it be settled through arbitration.

The strike, which began Nov. 22 and lasted less than 40 hours, affected 75 DHL and Amazon flights and stranded more than a million pounds of cargo, according to ABX Air.

The pilots were upset about being given “emergency assignments” on their days off, but Judge Black ruled the strike was illegal because ABX Air “has not changed the terms of the [collective-bargaining agreement]” between itself and the pilots’ union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1224.

The pilots argued that a new policy requiring advanced notice of days off represents a change in the “status quo” of the CBA, but Black disagreed.

“Whether a change to an alleged ‘past practice’ is a violation of the status quo is a function of the arbitrator,” the judge wrote, adding that, “[H]ere, there is no binding past practice that requires ABX to allow crewmembers to freely decide when to advise ABX of their choice of [vacation] days, and even if there were, an arbitrator may find that changed circumstances justify a departure from that practice.”

Black ruled that the strike would have caused irreparable injury not only to ABX Air, but the public at large.

“The public expects that purchases and shipments will be delivered in a timely fashion,” Black wrote. “Accordingly, there is a significant public interest in enjoining defendants’ strike. Absent an injunction, ABX, its customers, and the public will suffer immediate, irreparable harm. Imagine Christmas without Amazon!”

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