Thu, Mar 01, 2012
Union Has Questions About Railway Labor Act
The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents the 10,000
pilots of American Airlines, filed an action for declaratory
judgment Tuesday with the bankruptcy court asking the judge to
clarify how the Railway Labor Act and Section 1113 of the U.S.
Bankruptcy Code interrelate.
“Our objective is to enhance the prospects of a consensual
agreement between the Allied Pilots Association and airline
management in the ongoing restructuring negotiations,” said
APA President Captain Dave Bates. “APA believes that a
consensual agreement between our union and airline management is in
our company’s long-term best interests. Accordingly, APA has
asked the bankruptcy court to clarify a legal gray area regarding
rejection of airline industry collective bargaining agreements in
While Section 1113 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code outlines
procedures for rejecting existing labor contracts during their
term, the comprehensive collective bargaining agreement between APA
and American Airlines expired in 2008. Since then, APA and American
Airlines have been negotiating under federal labor law provisions
that prohibit airline management from changing rates of pay, rules
and working conditions until the National Mediation Board (NMB)
finishes mediating toward an agreement.
“The Railway Labor Act provides specialized procedures for
peaceful resolution of labor contracts in the airline industry, and
the conflict between the bankruptcy code and the Railway Labor
Act’s requirements has not been thoroughly
adjudicated,” Bates said.
Under the terms of the Railway Labor Act, the status quo period
remains in force until the NMB declares a negotiations impasse and
proffers binding interest arbitration. APA has been seeking such a
proffer from the NMB. If either party declines the proffer, a
30-day cooling-off period begins. “While the Railway Labor
Act permits self-help by both parties, in a significant Chapter 11
proceeding such as AMR’s reorganization, it is conceivable
that the White House would appoint a Presidential Emergency Board
(PEB) before the end of the cooling-off period to prevent
disruption to interstate commerce,” Bates said.
The PEB would examine the unresolved bargaining items and issue
a settlement recommendation. “The Railway Labor Act
represents the more promising path to a consensual agreement by
offering multiple options for dispute resolution at different
junctures in the bargaining process,” Bates said.
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