United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lindsay, United States District Judge
the court are Plaintiff AMFA's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 38), filed January 22, 2016; and Defendant
Southwest Airlines Co.'s Cross Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 40), filed February 12, 2016. After careful
consideration of the motions, briefs, appendix, record, and
applicable law, the court grants Defendant Southwest Airlines
Co.'s Cross Motion for Summary Judgment; denies Plaintiff
AMFA's Motion for Summary Judgment; and dismisses with
prejudice this action.
Procedural and Factual Background
November 11, 2015, Plaintiff Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal
Association (“Plaintiff” or “the
Union”) brought this action against Defendant Southwest
Airlines Co. (“Defendant” or
“Southwest”) to vacate a labor arbitration award
(“Bloch Award”) pursuant to the Railway Labor Act
(“Act” or “RLA”), 45 U.S.C. §
151 et seq. Plaintiff is a labor union acting on
behalf of the mechanics (“Mechanics”) employed by
Southwest. In Plaintiff's Petition to vacate the Bloch
Award, the Union contends that Arbitrator Richard Bloch
(“Arbitrator Bloch”) recognized but did not
follow a previous arbitration award-the Sauter Award. The
Union contends that Arbitrator Bloch, therefore, violated the
RLA and exceeded his jurisdiction under the parties'
Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), as the
RLA and CBA require the Sauter Award to be treated as final
and binding. The Union further contends that the court should
vacate the Bloch Award and remand this action for another
parties stipulated to the admission of the System Board of
Adjustment (“Board”) proceedings into the record
and agreed that no discovery was necessary. Further, they
agreed that the issues presented in the Petition should be
addressed through cross-motions for summary judgment. On
January 22, 2016, Plaintiff moved for summary judgment.
Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment and a
response to Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on
February 12, 2016. Plaintiff filed its reply to
Defendant's motion for summary judgment on February 19,
2016. Defendant filed its reply to Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment on February 26, 2016. Both parties agree
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that there is a legal dispute that can be resolved by summary
judgment based on the applicable law.
court now sets forth the facts in accordance with the
standard in Section II of this opinion. Plaintiff and
Defendant are parties to a CBA that governs the terms and
conditions of the Mechanics' employment. Article 21 of
the CBA sets forth the process for resolving a grievance
arising over the interpretation or application of the
contract. First, the aggrieved employee must discuss a
possible solution for the grievance with his or her
supervisor or manager. J.A. 597. The supervisor or manager
then issues a grievance decision. Id. During the
discussion with his or her supervisor or manager, the
aggrieved employee may be represented by his or her shop
representative or local airline representative. Id.
The decision reached in this first step of the grievance
procedure “shall not constitute a precedent of any kind
unless otherwise agreed to by the Union and
[Southwest].” Id. The parties may also resolve
a grievance dispute “by the union or carrier agreeing
to a voluntary settlement of the grievance, or by the
grievant withdrawing the grievance” Pl.'s Pet. 6-7.
If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute through
discussion, the aggrieved employee's next step is to
submit an official Union grievance form to his or her
supervisor or manager. J.A. 597. The Union may appeal the
supervisor or manager's grievance decision to the Board.
Id. The Board consists of one member designated by
the union and one member designated by Southwest. Pl.'s
Pet. 7. Pursuant to Articles 21 and 22 of the CBA, a
Board's resolution of a grievance is “final and
binding” unless the parties agree otherwise.
Id. If the Board is deadlocked, Article 22 allows
the Union to appeal the Board's decision to an
arbitrator. Id. Under Article 22, a single impartial
arbitrator resolves the grievance after a contested
arbitration hearing. Id.
2, Section 12 of the CBA, provides an expedited process for
resolving subcontracting grievances. Under Article 2, Section
12, the Union may invoke expedited arbitration before the
Board sitting with a neutral arbitrator, after the matter is
grieved and the parties have attempted “to resolve
their dispute in conference.” J.A. 543. “Article
2.12 operates in conjunction with Article 22.”
Def.'s Resp. to Ct. Order on Clarification 2.
dispute arose between the parties in 2014 as to whether
Southwest was entitled to assign nonmaintenance brake riding
work to a third-party vendor instead of using the Mechanics.
Brake riding is a process of controlling an aircraft while it
is being towed. The aircraft is typically “powered down
and empty of passengers.” Afoa v. China Airlines
Ltd, No. C11-0028-JCC, 2013 WL 12066088, at *1 (W.D.
Wash. Apr. 12, 2013).
When a plane is being towed, one mechanic is in the cockpit
riding the brakes of the aircraft. Another mechanic drives
the tow truck, which pulls or pushes the aircraft, depending
on which direction the tow truck is facing. One or two
mechanics act as wing walkers. During towing, it is necessary
for either the mechanic driving the tow truck or the mechanic
in the cockpit to be in radio contact with the control tower
in order to receive directions and instructions regarding
when and where it is safe for the towing to proceed.
Sprague v. United Airlines, Inc., No.
CIV.A.97-12102-GAO, 2002 WL 1803733, at *15 (D. Mass.
2002). Performing the brake riding work requires
“powering the aircraft[']s APU [auxiliary power
unit] and hydraulics, [and] configuring radios and
communicating with the tug operator and/or tower.” J.A.
1760-61. In late 2014, Southwest notified the Union that it
would be assigning a portion of its nonmaintenance brake
riding work to a third-party vendor. As a result, Plaintiff
received hundreds of grievances against Southwest from its
Mechanics. The Mechanics contended that the nonmaintenance
brake riding, subject to some limitations, was within the
Mechanics' classification under the CBA's Scope
Clause, and, therefore, Southwest was prohibited from
contracting the work to a third-party vendor. Southwest
disagreed. The parties were unable to reach a grievance
settlement; therefore, they agreed to resolve the issue
through expedited arbitration pursuant to Article 2, Section
12 of the CBA. On January 30, 2015, the Union designated a
lead grievance for the class action grievance to move to
arbitration. Def.'s Resp. to Ct. Order on Clarification
2. The parties agreed to select Arbitrator Bloch as the
neutral arbitrator to sit on the Board. As the parties also
agreed that the matter would be expedited, the arbitrator was
to issue a decision no later than thirty days after the
address the parties' dispute, Arbitrator Bloch held
hearings on May 6, 7, 18, and 19, 2015. In its argument
before Arbitrator Bloch, the Union contended that the terms
of a 2001 System Board of Adjustment Award (“Sauter
Award”) were decisive with respect to the parties'
dispute. The Sauter Award resolved a dispute as to when
non-Mechanic employees could perform brake riding. Mechanic
Ken Sauter and another Mechanic grieved the issue, and, as
the issue was not resolved through the grievance process,
they appealed to the Board. On October 17, 2001, the Board
disposed of the dispute with the following decision:
At locations and shifts where there are no SWA Mechanics,
Ramp Supervision Personnel may ride the brakes for
repositioning. However, when [and] if such stations are
manned by SWA Mechanics, this work will be done by SWA
Per Article 2 para 3.
[Southwest] will continue to train Ground Operations
Supervisor from stations without Southwest Mechanics to brake
ride. It is mutually agreed that when and if Mechanics are
stationed that SWA Mechanics will perform said duties. Only
exception is if no Mechanic is available on a particular
shift, then [Ground Operations Supervisors] will assist in
the movement of the aircrafts.
Bloch considered the Sauter Award and determined that with
respect to brake riding it “in no way settles the issue
on exclusive jurisdiction throughout the Southwest system. It
may, with equal force, be seen as the parties' agreed on
rules as to the orderly management of a shared task. Whatever
the underlying intent [of the Sauter Award], the Disposition
is not one that survived subsequent labor agreements.”
J.A. 1774. In deciding that the Sauter Award was
inapplicable, Arbitrator Bloch stated that the Sauter Award
is not a “global prohibition on the assignment of
non-Mechanics” but instead “reflects these
parties' practice of  recognizing the Mechanics'
ownership of the task in some circumstances, ” and
identifies other circumstances when others may perform the
nonmaintenance brake riding. J.A. 1773. Arbitrator Bloch
reasoned that the Sauter Award reflects a ...