The opinion of the court was delivered by: WYATT
This motion by plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction raises questions under the Railway Labor Act (45 U.S.C. § 151 and following; the 'Act'), made applicable to air carriers by amendments effective April 10, 1936 (45 U.S.C. § 181). The facts are perfectly clear and beyond dispute; the questions are only of law.
The action is for an injunction and a declaratory judgment. Plaintiffs are President Manning of American Airlines Chapter, Flight Engineers' International Association, AFL-CIO (the 'Chapter') and the Chapter itself. Defendant (often called 'American' or 'the Company' herein) is a very large and important common carrier by air.
The Chapter has been for a number of years, and is now, the collective bargaining respresentative of the employees of American in the 'craft or class' of flight engineers. In opposing the present motion, American contended that the status of the Chapter as representative was in doubt. This contention was also made in another action in this Court, but an opinion and decision in such other action (Ruby, etc. v. American Airlines, Inc. et al., 63 Civ. 585), filed August 12, 1963, rejected the contention and for present purposes it is no longer available to defendant.
An agreement, usually called the 'basic agreement', was made between American and its flight engineers, represented by the Chapter, effective May 1, 1958. The duration provision of this basic agreement was in relevant part as follows:
'This Agreement shall become effective May 1, 1958 and shall continue in full force and effect until April 30, 1963 and shall renew itself without change until each successive April 30 thereafter unless written notice of intended change is served in accordance with Section 6, Title I, of the Railway Labor Act, as amended, by either party hereto at least sixty (60) days prior to April 30 in any year after April 30, 1962; * * *.'
There was a separate agreement between the parties, usually called the 'dues check-off agreement', also effective May 1, 1958. This agreement provided for deduction of dues and payment thereof to the Chapter, as permitted by Section 2, Eleventh, (b), of the Act (45 U.S.C. § 152, Eleventh, (b)). The duration provision of the dues check-off agreement was as follows:
'G. This Agreement shall become effective May 1, 1958 and shall continue in full force and effect until April 30, 1963, and shall be subject to renewal thereafter only by mutual agreement of the parties hereto.'
There was another separate agreement between the parties under which a system 'board of adjustment' was established as required by the Act (45 U.S.C. § 184). The duration provision of this adjustment board agreement was word for word the same as the part quoted above from the duration provision of the basic agreement.
It will be noted that the dues check-off agreement, unlike the two others, was not to 'renew itself' but was to be in effect only 'until April 30, 1963' and was 'subject to renewal thereafter only by mutual agreement of the parties hereto'.
Under date of February 28, 1963, notices of intended changes in the basic agreement were given by the Chapter and by American under Section 6 of the Act (45 U.S.C. § 156).
Under date of March 8, 1963, the Chapter gave a similar notice (often called a 'Section 6 opener') to the Company with respect to the dues check-off agreement. The change proposed was in paragraph G, to make the duration of the dues check-off agreement the same as that of the basic agreement.
The Company took the position that this Section 6 opener as to the dues check-off agreement was not timely served and moreover that the restrictions in Section 6 against altering 'rates of pay, rules, or working conditions' had no application to dues check-off because of the expiry date of the agreement.
The Company therefore took the further position that it would discontinue dues check-off after the expiry of the agreement on April 30, 1963, and presumably it has done so.
This action was then commenced.
The motion asks that the Company be enjoined preliminarily from discontinuing the dues check-off.
The theory of the action, and of the motion, is that the March 8, 1963 notice or 'opener' under Section 6 made applicable the procedures provided by the Act for the settlement of a dispute by collective bargaining, that until these procedures have been followed to exhaustion there is a statutory duty on the parties to maintain the status quo, and that discontinuance of the dues check-off by American is an alteration of the status quo and thus a violation of the Act.
The purpose of the Act is broadly to avoid strikes or other interruptions of commerce by requiring collective bargaining, by encouraging arbitration and use of the services of the National Mediation Board ('NMB') and by forbidding during this process any alteration 'by the carrier' of 'rates of pay, rules, or working conditions'.
A detailed description of the Act's procedures was made by Judge Bryan in American Airlines, Inc. v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, 169 F.Supp. 777, 783-785 (S.D.N.Y.1958).
The provision of Section 6 requiring maintenance of the status quo by the carrier is in relevant part as ...