In the Matter of the
Application of the
alleging a representation dispute pursuant to Section 2, Ninth, of the Railway Labor Act, as amended
involving employees of
25 NMB No. 111
CASE NO. R-6622
(File No. CR-6629)
On March 13, 1998, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) filed an application for investigation of a representation dispute among "Flight Attendants," employees of AirTran Airlines and AirTran Airways. This matter was assigned NMB File No. CR-6629. Attached to AFA's application was a letter from the organization requesting the Board to investigate whether an operational merger between AirTran Airlines (formerly known as Valujet) and AirTran Airways has been consummated. AFA requested further that if the Board should find that a merger has occurred, the Board should extend the certification issued to AFA in R-6359, Valujet, 22 NMB 63 (1995) to cover all Flight Attendants on the merged system.
On March 26, 1998, the Board received a letter from AirTran Airlines with a list of potential eligible voters encompassing Flight Attendants on AirTran Airlines ("Airlines") and AirTran Airways ("Airways.") "Airlines" took the position that the Board should conduct an election among the approximately 499 Flight Attendants "now employed by the combined carriers" to "put to rest any representation questions."
On March 31, 1998, the Board sent a letter to the carrier(s) asking for responses to specific questions in order to determine the scope of the system.(1) "Airlines" responded on April 14, 1998. In its April 14, 1998, response, "Airlines" indicated that an operational merger would occur by August 10, 1998. AFA filed a response on April 28, 1998.
On June 2, 1998, the Board requested updated information from the carrier(s). "Airlines" responded on June 5, 1998, by submitting a copy of its "Transition Plan." AFA filed a response on June 18, 1998.
Are AirTran Airlines and AirTran Airways a single transportation system? If so, what are the representation consequences of their operations?
In AirTran Airways, 25 NMB 24 (1997), "Airways" took the position that it was merging with "Airlines," and, therefore, applications filed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the AirTran Pilots Association (ATPA), should be dismissed. The Board conducted an investigation which established that as of October, 1997, the merger had not been consummated and that the airlines continued to operate as separate carriers. Therefore, the Board held elections among employees of AirTran Airways only.
AFA contends that the facts have changed and that the Board should extend AFA's certification in accordance with Board policy. In support of its position, the organization cites USAir/Shuttle, Inc., 19 NMB 388 (1992); Air Wisconsin/Aspen Airways, 18 NMB 336 (1991); and Alaska Airlines/Jet America, Inc., 15 NMB 42 (1987). According to AFA, these cases and others are illustrative of "unequivocal" Board precedent that "when two carriers merge, the larger group's certification is extended to the systemwide craft or class . . . ."
While "Airlines'" response was in accordance with AFA's on the issue of the appropriate system, the carrier took the position that the Board should conduct an election. "Airlines" did not cite any Board decisions in support of its position.
FINDINGS OF LAW
AirTran Airways and AirTran Airlines are common carriers as defined in 45 U.S.C. § 181.
The AFA is a labor organization and representative as provided by 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 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."
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 . . . by the employees without interference, influence or coercion exercised by the carrier."
STATEMENT OF FACTS
On or about August 10, 1998, according to "Airlines", the two carriers will consummate their operational merger, and "the operating airline" will be called AirTran Airlines. In the interim, the company is operating under the name of AirTran Airways. Operational functions will be combined under the "Airways" air carrier certificate.
Management functions on the combined carrier will be integrated. Labor relations will be administered by the Senior Vice President of Operations and the Senior Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering. Personnel functions will be administered by the Senior Vice President of Operations, the Senior Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering, and the Vice President of Human Resources.
Schedules and routes of "Airlines" and "Airways" have been combined. Flight Attendants and Customer Service Representatives' uniforms were already standardized by April, 1998, with uniforms for the pilots to be standardized subsequently. According to "Airlines", markings on its fleet have been conformed and the "Airways" fleet will be conformed on or about October 31, 1998. In addition, uniform insignias have been standardized. Old "Airways'" logos will be phased out by October 31, 1998, when all of the "Airways" fleet has been conformed with the "Airlines" fleet.
According to AFA, the organization currently represents approximately 390 Flight Attendants pursuant to its certification in R-6359. AFA asserts that the number of unrepresented Flight Attendants, those employed by "Airways," is approximately 130. According to the list provided by the Carrier, as of March 1998 there were approximately 379 Flight Attendants based in Atlanta and Washington-Dulles, the two "Airlines" stations, and approximately 120 Flight Attendants stationed at Orlando, the "Airways" base.
According to the "Transition Plan" submitted by the Carrier, the majority of steps necessary to integrate operations had been completed by early June, with certain items pending FAA approval scheduled for completion by August 10, 1998.
I. The Board's Authority
Section 2, Ninth, of the Act, 45 U.S.C. 152, Ninth, authorizes the Board to investigate disputes which arise among a carrier's employees over representation and to certify the duly authorized representative of such employees. The Board has exclusive jurisdiction over representation questions under the Railway Labor Act. Switchmen's Union v. National Mediation Board, 320 U.S. 297 (1943); General Committee of Adjustment v. M.K.T. Railroad, 320 U.S. 323 (1943).(2)
In ALPA v. Texas Int'l Airlines, 656 F.2d 16, 22 (2d Cir. 1981), the court stated, "the NMB is empowered to . . . decide representation disputes arising out of corporate restructurings."
II. Single Transportation System
In TWA/Ozark, 14 NMB 218 (1987), the Board enunciated factors which will be examined to determine whether Carriers operate or will operate as a single transportation system. The following factors were cited by the Board as indicia of a single transportation system:
[W]hether the two systems are held out to the public as a single carrier. We recognize that there may be differences between two carriers' intent to hold themselves out to the public as a single carrier and the public's perception of whether there is a single system. That is why the Board looks into such practical considerations as whether a combined schedule is published; how the carrier advertises its services; whether reservation systems are combined; whether tickets are issued on one carrier's stock; if signs, logos and other publicly visible indicia have been changed to indicate only one carrier's existence; whether personnel with public contact were held out as employees of one carrier; and whether the process of repainting planes and other equipment, to eliminate indications of separate existence, has been progressed.
Other factors investigated by the Board seek to determine if the carriers have combined their operations from a managerial and labor relations perspective. Here the Board investigates whether labor relations and personnel functions are handled by one carrier; whether there are a common management, common corporate officers and interlocking Boards of Directors; whether there is a combined workforce; and whether separate identities are maintained for corporate and other purposes.
14 NMB at 236.
Based upon application of the principles cited above to the facts established by the investigation, the Board finds that AirTran Airlines and AirTran Airways will operate as a single carrier effective August 10, 1998. The facts have changed since the Board's decision in AirTran Airways, 25 NMB 24 (1997). Schedules for the two carriers have been combined, and the uniforms for the Flight Attendants have been standardized. The markings of the carriers' fleets will be conformed by October 31, 1998. Uniform insignias have been standardized. Most significantly, on August 10, 1998, managerial and labor relations functions will have been integrated.
III. Representation Consequences
A. Flight Attendants
Once the Board determines that a single transportation system exists, it examines the potential representation issues. Over the last several years the Board consistently has extended an organization's certification to cover employees in the craft or class on the entire system when the numbers of employees on each part of the system are not comparable. For example, in Continental Airlines/Continental Express, 20 NMB 582 (1993), the Board extended the certification of an incumbent which represented 6994 Flight Attendants to include 423 unrepresented Flight Attendants. In 20 NMB 580 (1993), which also involved Continental Airlines and Continental Express, the Board extended the certification of an incumbent which represented 65 Flight Dispatchers to cover 26 unrepresented Flight Dispatchers. See also SAHSA/TAN, 19 NMB 17 (1991), Air Wisconsin/Aspen Airways, 18 NMB 336 (1991), and Alaska Airlines/Jet America, 15 NMB 42 (1987).
The Board's examination of the record in this case establishes that the numbers of represented Flight Attendants on "Airlines" and unrepresented Flight Attendants on "Airways" are not comparable. Therefore, effective August 10, 1998, AFA's certification in R-6359 is extended to cover the entire craft or class.
B. Other Crafts or Classes
The other organizations representing employees on either "Airlines" or "Airways" are reminded by copy of this decision, of the Board's Merger Procedures, 14 NMB 388 (1987), Subpart B-4.
Effective August 10, 1998, AirTran Airlines and AirTran Airways will operate as a single transportation system. AFA's certification in R-6359 is extended effective August 10, 1998, to cover the entire craft or class of Flight Attendants on the merged system, AirTran Airlines. The Carrier must provide the Board with evidence that the merger is complete within 30 days of this decision.
By direction of the NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD.
Stephen E. Crable
Chief of Staff
Robert J. Berghel, Esq.
Edward J. Gilmartin, Esq.
Marvin Menaker, Esq.
Mr. Noel A. Poirier
Mr. D. Joseph Corr
Mr. Robert Swenson
Ms. Leslie C. Head
Mr. Ray Benning
Mr. Don Warzocha
1. The Board has provided copies of correspondence in this matter to all organizations certified to represent employees on "Airlines" and "Airways", and has provided those organizations an opportunity to file position statements. As of the date of this decision, no position statements have been filed.
2. See also Association of Flight Attendants v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 879 F.2d 906, 912 (D.C. Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1065 (1990); Air Line Employees Ass'n. v. Republic Airlines, Inc., 798 F.2d 967, 968-969(7th Cir. 1986); International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. Texas International Airlines, Inc., 717 F.2d 157, 159 (5th Cir. 1983); Air Line Pilots Ass'n v. Texas Int'l Airlines, Inc., 656 F. 2d 16, 23-24 (2d Cir. 1981); Brotherhood of Ry. Clerks v. United Airlines, Inc., 325 F.2d 576 (6th Cir. 1963).