In the Matter of the
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS & AEROSPACE WORKERS, AFL-CIO
alleging a representation dispute pursuant to Section 2, Ninth, of the Railway Labor Act, as amended
involving employees of
NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC.
27 NMB No. 60
CASE NO. R-6732
FINDINGS UPON INVESTIGATION-- DISMISSAL
April 4, 2000
On February 7, 2000, the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO (IAM or Organization), filed an application with the National Mediation Board (NMB or Board) pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth, alleging a representation dispute among "Quality Service Agents" (QSAs) of Northwest Airlines, Inc. (Northwest or Carrier). With its application, the Organization submitted a letter claiming that the QSAs are already covered as an accretion to IAM's certification in NMB Case No. R-5663 as the certified representative of the craft or class of Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees.
For the reasons set forth below, the Board finds that the QSAs are already covered by the certification issued to the IAM in NMB Case No. R-5663. Therefore, the Board dismisses the IAM's application.
On February 22, 2000, Northwest filed an initial statement that QSAs do not share a community of interest with the Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees craft or class and should not be accreted. On March 3, 2000, the IAM responded asserting the QSAs' accretion was appropriate. On March 9, 2000, Northwest filed a position statement and evidence opposing the accretion. The IAM filed a response on March 15, 2000, and Northwest filed a final submission on March 21, 2000.
Do QSAs share a work-related community of interest with Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees? If so, should the Board conduct an accretion election to determine if the QSAs wish to be represented by the IAM?
The IAM contends that the QSAs share a community of interest with the Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees craft or class. The IAM states that these employees are "meeters and greeters" who are stationed at check-in lines, flight information display screens, and at gates. The QSAs, IAM contends, assist passengers in ticket lines, check baggage, and disembark planes. QSAs also assist unaccompanied minors traveling with the Carrier. The IAM argues that these employees perform work that is traditionally performed by Northwest ticket agents who are in the craft or class. The IAM further asserts that two recent required training classes for the QSAs and passenger service employees demonstrates that QSAs receive the same training as other employees in the craft or class. The IAM also states that QSAs have moved into customer service positions.
Contrary to the Carrier assertion, the IAM contends that it was unaware of the existence of the QSAs during the 1986 representation investigation, and that previously, it only represented the Mechanics and Related Employees and the Stock and Stores Employees, not the current craft or class.
Northwest contends that an accretion of the QSAs to the Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees craft or class would be inconsistent with Board precedent. Northwest states that the QSA position was created in 1984 with the same duties when IAM was selected as the representative of the Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service craft or class. At that time, the IAM, Northwest states, never raised the inclusion of the QSAs in the craft or class. The Carrier argues that, historically, the Board applies its accretion policy to "newly created positions that did not exist when the underlying craft or class was certified." While the Carrier recognizes that since Ross Aviation, Inc., 22 NMB 89 (1994), the Board has stated that if the employees are properly part of the craft or class, accretion is automatic, Northwest states the NMB "has not yet developed safeguards to prevent the type of abuse present here and to protect the rights of employee choice in its new accretion policy." Northwest urges a Board presumption against inclusion in a craft or class, if a position existed at the time of election, can overcome only by the "strongest evidence."
Northwest also contends that QSAs have no community of interest with ticket agents, because QSAs do not have the same skills, have different benefits, are part-time or casual (or temporary) employees, and spend the preponderance of their time looking after unaccompanied minors. Northwest contends that QSAs are like nurses, whom the Board has held are not grouped in the Passenger Service or the Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service craft or class.
FINDINGS OF LAW
Determination of the issues in this case is governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA or Act), as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188. Accordingly, the Board finds as follows:
Northwest is a common carrier by air as defined in 45 U.S.C. § 181.
IAM is a labor organization and/or representative as provided by 45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth.
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 shall designate who may participate as eligible voters in the event an election is required.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
QSAs were created in 1984 by Northwest's then-Vice President of Ground Operations. The QSAs' job description is as follows:
QSAs provide attentive, individual "meet & greet" concierge service to First and World Business Class transoceanic customers and to VIPs traveling on Northwest/KLM. . . .
QSAs are also utilized in a variety of miscellaneous areas of customer service including:
The primary responsibility of a QSA is to provide the highest level of customer service in a wide range of situations. Working with Managers and Customer Service Agents/Supervisors, QSAs help ensure that Northwest Airlines meets its high standard of customer service.
All QSAs are part-time employees, with about ninety-five hired as seasonal employees. Dirk McMahon, Northwest's Vice President of Ground Operations, declared that the QSA position was conceived as seasonal and there are many seasonal employees. McMahon further states that eighty to ninety percent of QSA time is spent with special needs passenger, i.e., unaccompanied minors. McMahon states that QSAs are paid a flat hourly rate starting at $7.25 per hour and can earn increases up to $10.50 per hour. Ticket agents are paid between $10.88 and $18.74 per hour with overtime pay, holiday pay, shift differential, and provisions for red-circling when moved into other assignments. McMahon states that QSAs do not share the same benefits or pass privileges as the other Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service employees.
McMahon also states that QSAs have F-3 pass privileges (which are the same as Northwest management) while Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees have F-5 pass privileges, a lower priority. Even in periods when they are inactive, QSAs continue to receive pass privileges.
The Board makes craft or class determinations based upon a work-related community of interest. American Airlines, Inc., 26 NMB 106 (1998); LSG Lufthansa Services, Inc., 25 NMB 96 (1997). In determining the appropriate craft or class for employees, the Board is guided by Section 5.1 of the Representation Manual which reads:
Individual cases require consideration of facts peculiar to particular situations, but, in addition, there are general factors to be considered. These may include, among others, the composition and relative permanency of employee groupings along craft or class lines; the functions, duties, and responsibilities of the employees; the general nature of their work; and the extent of community of interest existing between job classifications.
The Board looks to actual duties and responsibilities of employees, not merely at job titles. USAir, Inc., 21 NMB 402 (1994). The Board found the Passenger Service Employees' function as follows:
[T]o provide service to the customer whether in selling tickets to passengers or providing services relating to the shipping of goods. . . . Emphasis must be placed on the inherent character of the contact, the equality of the contact, the frequency of the contact and the business exigency of the contact with the public.
Alitalia Airlines, 9 NMB 200, 224 (1982). See also Laker Airways, Ltd., 8 NMB 158 (1980); British Airways, Inc., 7 NMB 369 (1980). The essence of passenger service is "customer contact." See American Airlines, supra, at 119; China Airlines, Ltd., 6 NMB 434 (1978); USAir, supra. The Board has stated that if the employees' principle function is passenger service they should be included in that craft or class. Laker Airways, supra.
Regardless of whether the QSAs have positions similar to ticket agents, they clearly share a community of interest with the Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees craft or class at Northwest. QSA duties are exclusively passenger service, whether they are unaccompanied minors or VIPs.
Similar positions have been included in this craft or class. See Allegheny Airlines, Inc., 6 NMB 416 (1978) (passenger service representatives who facilitate enplaning and/or deplaning of handicapped persons, the elderly, and unaccompanied children share a community of interest with ticket sales and customer service agents); Southern Airways, Inc., 6 NMB 729 (1979) (passenger service representatives who provide special service assistance to passengers, including unaccompanied minors, share a community of interest with Fleet and Passenger Service Employees craft or class).
The Carrier's argument that their pay scale and benefits are different from those provided to ticket agents is unavailing where the evidence that the QSAs interface with passengers and other members of the craft or class is so strong.
Northwest argues that the IAM should have included the QSAs in the craft or class in the previous representation proceeding. As the Board recently stated in US Airways, Inc., 27 NMB 138 (1999), "[t]he Board, not the participants, determines when accretion is appropriate and prior conduct of the Organization or the Carrier is not relevant in this case."
B. The Necessity of Representation Elections
In Ross Aviation, supra, the Board reaffirmed its policy against the fragmentation of crafts or classes. Ross states that the creation "of a separate craft or class of Aircraft Inspectors . . . would be contrary to established precedent regarding the composition of the Mechanics and Related Employees craft or class and would cause fragmentation and instability." Since these employees were covered by a certification, an election was unnecessary, and the organization's application was dismissed. The Board consistently follows Ross when it finds particular job functions are those traditionally performed by members of the certified craft or class. Allegheny Airlines, Inc., 26 NMB 487 (1999); Mesaba Airlines, 26 NMB 227 (1999).
The Office Clerical, Fleet and Passenger Service Employees craft or class numbers approximately 18,700 employees. The QSAs comprise 361 employees. To avoid fragmentation and instability, the Board finds an election is unwarranted in this case.
CONCLUSION AND DISMISSAL
The Board finds that Northwest's Quality Service Representatives are covered by the certification in NMB Case No. R-5663 issued to IAM. As there is no basis for further investigation, NMB Case No. R-6732 is dismissed.
By direction of the NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD.
Stephen E. Crable
Chief of Staff
Copies to: (See Attached)
John J. Gallagher, Esq.
Mr. R. Thomas Buffenbarger
Mr. Robert Roach, Jr.
Mr. Doug McKeen
Mr. Douglas Steenland