NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD
Washington, D.C. 20572
|In the Matter of the applications of the
TRANSPORT WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION
alleging a representation disputes pursuant to Section 2, Ninth of the Railway Labor Act,as amended
involving employees of
AMERICA WEST AIRLINES, INC.
|25 NMB No. 4
NMB CASE NO. R-6524
DETERMINATION OF ELIGIBILITY
October 6, 1997
On June 9, 1997, the Transport Workers International Union (TWU) filed an application alleging a representation dispute among Fleet Service Employees, employees of America West Airlines, Inc. (America West).
At the time the application was filed, these employees were unrepresented.
The Board assigned Mediator John J. Kane to conduct the investigation. During the investigation, TWU alleged that Ground Operations Team Leads (Team Leads) are eligible to vote and the carrier asserted that they are management officials.
On July 21, 1997 the Board authorized an election among America West's Fleet Service Employees. On September 8, 1997, Mediator Kane ruled that the Team Leads were not management officials. America West appealed the Mediator's ruling on September 15, 1997 and the TWU filed a response to the appeal on September 23, 1997.
Are America West's Ground Operations Team Leads management officials or are they eligible to vote in the election among Fleet Service Employees.
America West asserts that, based upon the totality of the circumstances, its Team Leads are management officials and are not eligible to vote. According to the carrier, its new Team Lead positions combine the technical skill and expertise of Loadmasters with additional supervisory responsibilities. The carrier argues that Team Leads do not share a work-related community of interest with ramp employees.
America West compares its Team Leads to American Airlines' Maintenance Supervisors. While the Maintenance Supervisors do not "routinely evaluate" mechanics, America West asserts that the Team Leads are responsible for ramp agent performance evaluations. America West asserts further that its Team Leads have authority to direct and assign work and for all activities related to the loading and unloading of aircraft. America West asserts that Ground Operations Team Leads, like American's Maintenance Supervisors, have the authority to "effectively recommend hiring decisions", discipline and discharge of its ramp agents.
TWU asserts that Team Leads are eligible to vote and perform duties similar to "lead" or "crew chief" employees in bargaining unit positions throughout the industry. The organization notes that Team Leads load and unload aircraft. TWU alleges that while Team Leads have input into hiring, discharge and discipline determinations, like the Foreman issue in Pan American Airways, Inc., 5 NMB 112, 117-118, their recommendations are merely advisory.
TWU notes that Team Leads do not have the authority to assign overtime, spend carrier funds, make budget decisions, negotiate on the carrier's behalf or determine carrier policy.
FINDINGS OF LAW
Determination of the issues in this matter is governed by the Railway Labor Act, as amended, 45 U.S.C. § 151, et seq. Accordingly, the Board finds as follows:
America West Airlines, Inc., is a common carrier by air as defined by 45 U.S.C. § 181.
TWU is a labor organization, and representative as provided by 45 U.S.C. § 151, Sixth, and 45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth, of the Act.
45 U.S.C. § 152, Fourth, gives employees subject to its provisions ". . . the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. The choice of the majority of any craft or class of employees shall be the representative of the craft or class for purposes of this chapter."
45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth, provides that the Board has the duty to investigate representation disputes and to designate who may participate as eligible voters in the event an election is required. In determining the choice of the majority of employees, the Board is "authorized to take a secret ballot of the employees involved, or to utilize any other appropriate method of ascertaining the names of their duly designated and authorized representatives in such manner as shall insure the choice of representatives by the employees without interference, influence or coercion exercised by the carrier. In the conduct of any election . . . the Board shall designate who may participate in the election and establish the rules to govern the election . ."
STATEMENT OF FACTS
On July 1, 1996, America West implemented a "Team Lead" program for its ground operations in Phoenix, Arizona. On May 3, 1997, the program was extended to Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Margaret Luciano, Manager-Employee Relations at America West, the program has not been extended to other stations because the carrier has determined that its flight activity at other stations is not sufficient to justify Team Leads. America West currently employs approximately 2000 Fleet Service Employees and 157 Team Leads. Approximately 59 Ground Operations Team Leads are stationed at Las Vegas and approximately 98 are stationed at Phoenix.
Luciano characterizes the Team Lead position as one which "combines the technical skills and expertise of ... [America West's] pre-existing Loadmaster position with an additional level" of supervisory authority.
Specifically, Team Leads are responsible for all facets of loading and unloading America West's aircraft at the particular gate. This includes bringing the airplane into the gate, unloading and reloading the airplane and getting the airplane away from the gate. This responsibility includes baggage, cargo, and mail which is loaded and unloaded from the aircraft, as well as monitoring fueling, catering and other functions which may be contracted to third parties. According to Luciano, Team Leads "exercise their authority independently of higher levels of management. . . within their sphere of control." That sphere is their assigned gate.
When problems with contract services arise, Team Leads complete "irregularity" reports which may lead to discussions between America West and the contractor. Team Leads are also responsible for resolving missing baggage problems or incorrect load manifests.
At each gate, the Team Lead assigns work to the three to five non-cross-utilized ramp employees, including the Team Lead. Tam Leads may also swap ramp agents to secure or provide additional ramp agents at any particular gate as needed. Team Leads also conduct briefings with team members regarding issues related to the loading and unloading of aircraft.
Team Leads report to the Ramp Supervisors, who report to the Assistant Manager-Ground Operations, who reports to the Manager-Ground Operations, who reports to the Senior Director-Hub.
Under America West's pay scale, ramp agents are compensated at level 18 (from $14,000 to $22,400 annually). Loadmasters are compensated at level 19 (from $15,400 to $24,160 annually). Team Leads are compensated at level 21 (from $17,900 to $28,640 annually). Ramp agents, Loadmasters and Ground Operations Team leads all receive overtime pay. Ramp Service Supervisors do not. All of these positions receive the same fringe benefits package.
Team Leads must have at least one year of service as a Ramp Agent and must complete a five day training program for the Team Lead position. That training program includes training in the technical aspects of loading aircraft. Finally, the individual must complete a 90 day trial period as an "Acting Team Lead" before appointment to a regular Team Lead position.
Team Leads are trained in America West's progressive counseling process, sexual harassment awareness and prevention and in Carrier-sponsored one day leadership programs. Loadmasters and ramp agents do not receive this training.
According to the Ground Operations Team Lead job description, Team Lead responsibilities include:
Individuals seeking Team Lead positions are interviewed by a team composed of two Team Leads and a Ramp Supervisor. All three question the candidates and score their answers. According to Luciano, the Ramp Supervisor and team leads "will" discuss those employees interviewed and "participate equally in deciding which candidate performed most successfully in the interview". In most cases, the individual recommended by the interview team "will be" selected.
According to Luciano, the program was "designed to give the Team Lead significant authority to effectively recommend discipline or discharge" of Ramp Agents. However, Team Leads do not have authority to discipline or discharge Ramp Agents. According to Luciano, the Team Lead program has been designed so that the Ground Operations Team Leads will "participate", along with supervisors in counseling sessions. The program is structured to allow Team Leads counsel on their own eventually. Team Leads are responsible for monitoring Ramp Agents' compliance with requirements, such as performance related goals, which may arise from counseling. According to Luciano, a Ramp Agents' failure to comply with such requirements may result in additional discipline. According to Luciano, on one occasion, a Team Lead suspended a Ramp Agent for insubordination without prior approval. Luciano did not provide any information as whether that action was considered appropriate.
Team Leads do not have authority to assign overtime, to establish carrier policy, or to spend the carrier's funds.
Section 5.312 of the Board's Representation Manual provides:
If an individual is determined to be a management official, the individual is ineligible. The Mediator shall consider, in the investigation, whether the involved individual has the authority to discharge and/or discipline employees or to effectively recommend the same; the extent of supervisory authority; the ability to authorize and grant overtime; the authority to transfer and/or establish assignments; the authority to create carrier policy; the authority and the extent to which carrier funds may be committed; whether the authority exercised is circumscribed by operating and policy manuals; the placement of the individual in the organizational hierarchy of the carrier; and, any other relevant factors regarding the individual's duties and responsibilities.
When the Board applies these criteria, the Board must consider various individual elements and factors which might not be decisive if considered separately, but considered cumulatively would remove a particular position from the status of an employee or subordinate official." Pan American World Airways, 5 NMB 112,115 (1973).
America West's Ground Operations Team Leads are not managerial officials. Since Team Leads do not participate in the creation of the carrier's policy or budget and do not spend carrier funds, the Board focuses on the limited supervisory authority vested in Team Leads. While Team Leads do have limited authority to participate in the hiring, evaluation, discipline and discharge of ramp agents, they are exactly as their title implies, lead employees.
Team Leads are one step above other ramp employees in the chain of command. They perform ramp work along side other ramp employees. As lead employees, Team Leads assign and direct the work of other ramp employees at their assigned gate. As lead employees, they report problems with contractors up the chain of command and are responsible for ensuring the efficient loading and unloading at their gate. Like other ramp employees, they receive overtime compensation and are not permitted to authorize overtime work.
Considered cumulatively, Team Lead's responsibilities do not rise to the level of a managerial official.
Based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, the Board finds Team Leads are employees or subordinate officials who share a community of interest with other Fleet Service Employees. As such, Ground Operations Team Leads are eligible to vote. Their votes, if cast, will count. The ballot count will take place as scheduled on Monday, October 6, 1997.
By direction of the NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD.
Stephen E. Crable
Chief of Staff