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Flight Engineers International Association v. Eastern Air Lines Inc.

decided: April 12, 1966.


Moore, Smith and Anderson, Circuit Judges.

Author: Moore


This appeal presents another facet of the drawn-out controversy between the defendant Eastern Air Lines, Inc. (Eastern), the plaintiff Flight Engineers International Association, EAL Chapter, AFL-CIO (FEIA), and the defendant Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Portions of the controversy have previously come before the Civil Aeronautics Board, the National Mediation Board, and a variety of courts.

The opinion of the District Court ably sets forth the background of the dispute. 243 F. Supp. 701 (S.D.N.Y. 1965). Only the barest summary is necessary here.

Federal regulations require a crew of three -- a pilot, a copilot, and a certified flight engineer -- in certain of the larger commercial aircraft. ALPA, which represented Eastern's pilots and copilots, and FEIA, which represented Eastern's flight engineers, clashed in 1958 over the license requirements of the flight engineer, the "third man in the cockpit." FEIA maintained that he should hold a mechanic's license (A & E license), held by FEIA members but not generally held by ALPA members. ALPA maintained that he should hold a pilot's license (P & I license), held by ALPA members but not generally held by FEIA members. After a strike by FEIA, Eastern agreed to a four-man crew, one member of which had to have a mechanic's license but did not have to have a pilot's license. This arrangement continued until 1962, with occasional strikes by FEIA and repeated attempts by presidential commissions and boards to solve the underlying problem of who should fill the third seat in the cockpit.

On June 23, 1962, FEIA again went out on strike, causing Eastern to shut down operations. In mid-July Eastern offered to give pilot's training to FEIA flight engineers so that they would be eligible for occupancy of the third seat. FEIA did not accept the offer within the time set. Eastern then made the same offer individually to each of the striking engineers, informing them that if they did not report to work by July 24th, they might be replaced. On August 10, 1962, Eastern made a final proposal to the striking flight engineers, promising them prior job rights on propeller equipment but not on jets, and stating that those who did not accept the offer by August 16th would lose all prior job rights. Under the terms of agreements which Eastern reached with ALPA during this period, pilots who applied for the position of "pilot engineer" -- the new title given to occupants of the third seat in the cockpit -- would suffer no loss of their pilot seniority.

On August 10th, Eastern began to replace the striking flight engineers with ALPA pilots and on August 25th Eastern notified all flight engineers still out on strike that they had been permanently replaced. FEIA and some of the striking flight engineers wrote Eastern on August 27, 1962, demanding that their discharge be processed as a grievance under the FEIA-Eastern collective bargaining agreement. Eastern rejected these demands on the grounds that the bargaining agreement had been terminated.

On September 27, 1962, FEIA offered to end the strike along the lines of settlement proposed by Eastern in July, provided that striking flight engineers could return to work in order of seniority. Eastern declined on the grounds that the strikers had been permanently replaced, so that there was no basis for further negotiation.

On September 28, 1962, FEIA informed Eastern that it would raise the replacement of the flight engineers as a formal grievance before the System Board of Adjustment established by the parties under the Railway Labor Act. Eastern refused to participate. As a result, the Mediation Board did not appoint a neutral member to the System Board of Adjustment.

Previous Litigation

FEIA has been seeking redress from Eastern and ALPA, together or separately, before a range of administrative and judicial bodies since the summer of 1962, for wrongs alleged to have been committed during the summer of 1962. The history of these efforts is necessary to the resolution of the problem before us.

In the union's first attempt at administrative review, FEIA filed a complaint with the CAB alleging that Eastern had violated Section 401(k)(4) of the Federal Aviation Act, 49 U.S.C. ยง 1371(k)(4), which makes compliance with the Railway Labor Act a condition for the holding of a certificate by an air carrier. The complaint alleged a number of violations of the Railway Labor Act by Eastern. The CAB dismissed the complaint, partly on the grounds that similar grievances were the basis of pending actions in the courts, and partly because the uncertain nature of the FEIA representation of the flight engineers was a question for the National Mediation Board to decide. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that this dismissal was not an abuse of discretion by the CAB, although the Court indicated that it believed the CAB had some independent jurisdiction to decide whether the Railway Labor Act had been violated. Flight Engineers' International Association v. Civil Aeronautics Board, 332 F.2d 312 (D.C. Cir. 1964).

In 1964 FEIA sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin the National Mediation Board from holding an election to determine the bargaining representative of the flight engineers then working for Eastern, on the grounds that in determining who was qualified to vote in the representation election, the National Mediation Board had refused to investigate FEIA's charges of unfair labor practices. The district court held that the Mediation Board was under no duty to hold hearings on such charges. Flight Engineers' International Association v. National Mediation Board, 230 F. Supp. 611 (D.D.C. 1964). The Court of Appeals affirmed, indicating that the Mediation Board had made some investigation as to the voting rights of the ALPA pilots who had replaced FEIA engineers. Flight Engineers' International Association v. National Mediation Board, 119 U.S. App. D.C. 171, 338 F.2d 280 (D.C. Cir. 1964).

In the summer of 1962 FEIA brought suit in the Southern District of New York, seeking a preliminary injunction against Eastern on the grounds that Eastern had failed to bargain as required by the Railway Labor Act, and had bargained improperly by withdrawing earlier offers to the union and by writing to the individual employees. The district court denied the relief requested on the grounds that FEIA had shown no clear and convincing evidence of unfair labor practices and had not demonstrated a reasonable probability of success after trial. This court affirmed on the opinion ...

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