Flight Attendant Dispute Headed to Arbitration

     (CN) – In a ruling that hinged on whether a labor dispute was “major” or “minor,” the 9th Circuit vacated an injunction barring Mesa Airlines from unilaterally changing the work schedules of union flight attendants.

     When the collective bargaining agreements between Mesa and the Association of Flight Attendants expired, the parties negotiated new agreements.
     Mesa decided to apply different FAA regulations limiting the work schedules of flight attendants. Under the old bargaining agreements, the airline could schedule its flight attendants according to the federal guidelines for either crew members or flight attendants. But in 2007, Mesa unilaterally changed the applicable regulations.
     The union objected, claiming the move violated the Railway Labor Act. It characterized the disagreement as a “major dispute” that required an injunction, which the district court granted.
     But Mesa insisted that the dispute was minor, calling instead for binding arbitration.
     “We hold that Mesa has carried its burden to show that its action is ‘arguably justifiable’ by the terms of the existing (agreements),” Judge Fletcher wrote for the three-judge appellate panel.
     The dispute is therefore minor and subject to arbitration only, the court concluded.

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