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TWA v. INDEPENDENT FEDN. OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS

May 6, 1983

TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
INDEPENDENT FEDERATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVAL

OPINION AND ORDER

PIERRE N. LEVAL, U.S.D.J.

 Plaintiff Trans World Airlines, Inc. ("TWA") and defendant Independent Federation of Flight Attendants ("IFFA") each move for summary judgment on claim I of the complaint. That claim alleges that IFFA violated its obligations under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., to "exert every reasonable effort . . . to settle all disputes . . .", 45 U.S.C. § 152 First, by failing to agree to submit to the Flight Attendant System Board of Adjustment, with Arthur Stark as Neutral Referee, a question concerning the rights of TWA and flight attendants.

 Although the parties dispute the legal consequences of the relevant facts, they do not dispute the facts themselves. On October 11, 1978, TWA and IFFA entered into a collective bargaining agreement covering rates of pay, rules, and working conditions for TWA's flight attendants. That agreement is subject to the Railway Labor Act. Although the agreement expired by its terms on August 1, 1981, the rates of pay, rules, working conditions, and all other terms and conditions of employment established by the contract, remain in full force and effect.

 Article 6-A(S) of the agreement provides that "[a]n employee shall not be required to remain on duty for more than fifteen (15) consecutive hours." That provision has been a part of each labor agreement between TWA and the representative of its flight attendants since 1967.

 On June 14, 1971, TWA refused to release a flight crew from duty prior to the commencement of a flight segment during the course of which the crew would have exceeded the fifteen hour limit. Flight attendant Shirley Cardinal filed a grievance which was processed through the various grievance procedures created by the contract then in force. The grievance was finally submitted for final resolution by the Flight Attendant System Board of Adjustment, with Arthur Stark as Neutral Referee.

 In that arbitration, TWA argued that it was not required to release flight attendants from duty until they actually exceeded fifteen consecutive hours. Thus TWA reasoned that it could insist that flight attendants serve on a flight leg if at the start of the leg the attendants had not yet completed fifteen hours on duty.

 On February 13, 1973, the System Board ruled in favor of Ms. Cardinal and against TWA. The Board's order provided:

 1. The Company violated Article [6-A(S)] by refusing to grant relief to the cabin crew of Flight 135 on June 14, 1971.

 2. The Company shall henceforth comply with the Board's interpretation of Article [6-A(S)] with respect to situations involving anticipatory breaches, as set forth in the attached Opinion.

 3. The Claimants shall be paid for one hour and 42 minutes at their incentive rates applicable as of June 14, 1971.

 The opinion referred to in the second paragraph of the order was signed only by Arthur Stark, the neutral member of the panel. In that opinion, Mr. Stark concluded:

 [The contract] is quite clear in its declaration that an employee "shall not be required to remain on duty for more than fifteen (15) consecutive hours." It does not specify when that requirement may be invoked; nor is there an exception which exempts situations of anticipatory breach. With a broad declaration such as this it was incumbent on Managgement to obtain a qualification if one was desired, in my judgment. But the clause is unqualified and there is no clarifying letter of agreement. Since the question at issue was not specifically discussed at the negotiations it cannot fairly be held that there was a meeting of minds on the exemption, although [TWA's negotiator] may well have understood that to be the case.

 Note further that, on June 14, 1971, there was apparently no compelling reason, such as lack of available personnel, for ...


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