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ROBINSON v. PAN AM

November 8, 1984

DONALD ROBINSON, RICHARD HILL, CHARLES M. ADAMS, JAMES WOLFANGER, KARL RAHN, and RONALD FREGARA, Plaintiffs, against PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS, INC., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET

SWEET, D.J.

Plaintiffs Donald Robinson, Richard Hill, Charles Adams, James Wolfanger, Karl Rahn, and Ronald Fregara, former employees of defendant Pan American World Airways, Inc. ("Pan Am") brought this action pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (the "R.L.A.") asserting that they were dismissed because of their union organizing efforts in violation of § 2, Fourth of the R.L.A. Pan Am has now moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim and for untimeliness. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

 Facts

 In 1977, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division, Local 732 ("the Union") filed an application with the National Mediation Board (the "NMB") pursuant to § 3, Ninth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth, seeking representation status as to certain Pan Am employees denominated as "Production/Maintenance Supervisors," a group which included both Production Supervisors and Inspection Supervisors as well as other employees. At that time employees were not represented by any labor organization. Following hearings held in 1978 and 1979, the NMB decided in January of 1980 that Pan Am's Inspection Supervisors were not "employees or subordinate officials" within the meaning of § 1, Fifth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 151, Fifth. At the same time, the Board held that Pan Am's Production Supervisiors were "employees or subordinate officials" and as such technically constituted a craft or class for representation purposes under the R.L.A. Pan American World Airways, 7 N.M.B. No. 95 at 189 (Jan. 18, 1980) ("Pan Am I"). However, the NMB declined to allow an election because of the recently consummated merger of Pan Am with National Airlines ("National") and instead authorized the Union to submit a new application later on in 1980 so that the NMB could investigate the impact of the merger on the supervisors.

 In December 1980 the Union filed another application pursuant to § 2, Ninth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 152 seeking to represent Pan Am's Production Surpervisors. Hearings were subsequently held by the NMB between March and October of 1981 in which representatives of both the Union and Pan Am participated. On February 16, 1982, the NMB rules that Pan Am's Production Supervisors were not "employees or subordinate officials" within the meaning of § 1, Fifth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 151, Fifth, citing various changes that had gradually been made in the job after the merger. Pan American World Airways, 9 NMB 73 at 229 (Feb. 16, 1982) ("Pan Am II").

 Plaintiffs Robinson, Adams, Wolfanger, Rahn and Fregara were Production Supervisors with Pan Am. Plaintiff Hill was an Inspection Supervisor.The plaintiffs allege that during the pendency of the second application and its hearings, in which they participated, they and other Supervisors were threatened, harassed, questioned and intimidated by Pan Am because of their activities in support of the Union. In June of 1981 Plaintiffs Robinson, Adams, Wolfanger, Rahn and Fregara were all dismissed from their positions. Hill was dismissed from his position of Inspection Supervisor in February of 1982. Plaintiffs Robinson, Hill, Adams, Wolfanger and Rahn contested their termination in accordance with the terms of Pan Am's personnel manual. Thereafter, grievance hearings were held before Pan Am's Management Appeal Board. According to the plaintiffs, the Appeal Board has yet to advise them of any decision as to their grievances.

 The plaintiffs commenced this action on June 12, 1984 alleging that they were dismissed for their pro-union activities in violation of § 2, Fourth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 152, Fourth. In addition, Robinson, Hill, Adams, Wolfanger and Rahn allege as a pendent state claim that Pan Am's Management Appeal Board failed to adhere to time limits established by Pan Am in violation of their employment agreement.

 Two separate issues are presented for consideration, either of which could dispose of this case. Pan Am first argues that the plaintiffs were not "employees or subordinate officials" within the meaning of § 1, Fifth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 151, Fifth at the time of their dismissal and as such are not entitled to the protections of § 2, Fourth of the R.L.A. Alternatively, Pan Am contends that even if the plaintiffs were "employees or subordinate officials" within the R.L.A. this action is barred by the statute of limitations.

 Applicability of the Railway Labor Act

 Section 2, Fourth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 152, Fourth, reads:

 Employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. The majority of any craft or class of employees shall have the right to determine who shall be the representative of the craft or class for the purposes of this chapter. No carrier, its officers, or agents shall deny or in any way question the right of its employees to join, organize, or assist in organizing the labor organization of their choice, and it shall be unlawful for any carrier to interfere in any way with the organization of its employees, or to use the funds of the carrier in maintaining or assisting or contributing to any labor organization, labor representative, or other agency of collective bargaining, or in performing any work therefore, or to influence or coerce employees in an effort to induce them to join or remain or not to join or remain members of any labor organization, or to deduct from the wages of employees any dues, fees, assessments, or other contributions: Provided, That nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit a carrier from permitting an employee, individually, or local representatives of employees from conferring with management during working hours without loss of time, or to prohibit a carrier from furnishing free transportation to its employees while engaged in the business of a labor organization (emphasis added).

 Only "employees" are entitled to the protection of this section. The term "employee" is defined in Section 1, Fifth of the R.L.A., 45 U.S.C. § 151, Fifth:

 The term "employee" as used herein includes every person in the service of a carrier (subject to its continuing authority to supervise and direct the manner of rendition of his service) who performs any work defined as that of an employee or subordinate official in the orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission now in effect, and as the same may be amended or interpreted by orders hereafter entered by the Commission pursuant to the authority which is conferred upon it to enter orders amending or interpreting such existing orders: Provided, however, That no occupational classification made by order of the Interstate Commerce Commission shall be construed to define the crafts according to which railway employees may be organized by their voluntary action, nor shall the jurisdiction or powers of such employee organization be regarded as in any way limited or defined by the provisions of this chapter or by the orders of the Commission.

 When the R.L.A. was amended to include air carriers in 1936, coverage was again limited to those qualifying as an "employee or subordinate official" within the meaning ...


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