In the Matter of the
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS
alleging a representation dispute
pursuant to Section 2, Ninth,
involving employees of
28 NMB No. 72
CASE NO. R-6819
May 9, 2001
This determination addresses an application filed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT or Organization). The IBT requests the National Mediation Board (Board) to investigate whether Lineas Aereas Costarricenses S.A. (LACSA), Aviateca S.A. (AVIATECA), Nicaraguense de Aviation S.A. (NICA), and TACA International S.A. (TACA), are operating as a single transportation system known as Grupo TACA.(1) The Organization further requests, that if the Board finds that the airlines are operating as a single transportation system, it conduct an election among Grupo TACA's Fleet and Passenger Service Employees.
For the reasons discussed below, the Board finds there is insufficient evidence that the airlines listed in the application are operating as a single transportation system known as Grupo TACA. Therefore, the IBT's application is dismissed.
On January 18, 2001, the IBT filed an application alleging a representation dispute involving the Fleet and Passenger Service Employees of LACSA, TACA, AVIATECA, and NICA. The IBT asserted that the carriers are operating as Grupo TACA, a single transportation system. This application was assigned NMB File No. CR-6710.
At the time the application was filed, LACSA's Fleet and Passenger Service Employees were represented by the IBT. The investigation was assigned to Mary L. Johnson.
On January 23, 2001, the Board requested LACSA and TACA to provide information necessary to determine the appropriate system for representation purposes. The Board also asked the IBT to provide evidence in support of its position that the airlines operate as a single transportation system. The IBT filed its submission on January 29, 2001, and LACSA filed its submission on February 5, 2001. Additional submissions were filed by the IBT on February 12, 2001, and by LACSA on February 23, 2001.(2) TACA did not file a position statement.
Are LACSA, TACA, AVIATECA, and NICA operating as a single transportation system known as Grupo TACA?
The IBT asserts that LACSA, TACA, AVIATECA, and NICA hold themselves out as Grupo TACA. According to the Organization, the Carriers have combined management functions and have combined personnel documents such as training manuals. The IBT asserts that Grupo TACA coordinates flight schedules, reservations systems, marketing and sales, and the bulk purchase of fuel and spare parts for LACSA and TACA. The Organization also asserts that Grupo TACA carriers advertise combined route structure and combined fleet.
LACSA states that no merger has occurred or will occur. According to LACSA, Grupo TACA is a marketing alliance, but all of the foreign-flag airlines in the Grupo TACA alliance retain separate corporate identities. LACSA states that its management is not and will not be integrated with the other carriers. LACSA maintains that routes and schedules are controlled by the separate carriers, and that three of the carriers in Grupo TACA do not fly U.S. routes.
LACSA argues that the Board should dismiss the IBT's application for a number of reasons. First, LACSA asserts that "the single carrier concept does not allow jurisdiction over international carriers . . . especially . . . [where] some of the carriers . . . do not fly into the United States." Second, LACSA states that it is the only carrier in the Grupo TACA alliance with Fleet and Passenger Service Employees in the U.S. (TACA has contracted out its fleet and passenger service work.) Third, although LACSA admits that the Grupo TACA alliance of airlines is held out to the public as a single carrier for marketing purposes, Grupo TACA has no U.S.-based employees and no operating certificates.
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:
LACSA, TACA, AVIATECA, and NICA are common carriers as defined in 45 U.S.C. § 181.
IBT is a labor organization 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 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."
FINDINGS OF FACT
Grupo TACA Carriers
Grupo TACA is an alliance which includes LACSA, TACA, AVIATECA, and NICA. TACA-Honduras, AVIATECA, and NICA do not fly into the U.S., and do not have U.S.-based fleet and passenger service. TACA's fleet and passenger service work in the U.S. is contracted out to other carriers. LACSA is a Costa Rican airline with U.S. operations, which has fleet and passenger service operations in the U.S.
Grupo TACA's web site states it is "an alliance of the principal Central American Airlines (AVIATECA, LACSA, NICA, TACA) and TACA PERU, united under one corporate identity to provide superior service to our customers." LACSA has a separate web site, listing only the LACSA schedule. TACA and LACSA use code sharing, but retain separate routes.
According to the World Aviation Directory (WAD), AVIATECA is a Guatemalan airline. TACA International Airlines, S.A. is based in El Salvador. NICA, which is 49% owned by TACA, is based in Nicaragua. The WAD has no listing for Grupo TACA. A review of the WAD's listings for LACSA, TACA, AVIATECA, and NICA establishes insufficient evidence that directors and corporate officers are interlocking.
Management and Control of Labor Relations
Manual Montoya, LACSA's Director of the Human Resources, submitted a declaration. Montoya states that he is in charge of labor relations for LACSA, attends negotiations, and is involved in deciding about IBT's grievances. According to Montoya, the work performed by LACSA employees "has not been merged with other carriers. In fact, LACSA has received and resolved numerous grievances from the IBT involving integrity of work in the class or craft in issue here, and LACSA has maintained its separate labor and employment operation." Montoya states that it is his "understanding that TACA has no employees, but if it did have employees in the Fleet and Passenger Service classification . . . those employees could be subject to the certification that exists for TACA with another labor organization."(3)
The IBT submitted declarations from several LACSA employees. According to one of these individuals, load control instructions were formerly issued from Costa Rica, but in the last "two years such instructions have come exclusively from TACA at San Salvador. . . ." The individual states further that "all flight schedule changes emanate from TACA . . . [and] travel agencies wishing to book group space . . . must direct requests through the Grupo TACA sales department. . . ."
The employee also asserts that attempts to obtain information regarding LACSA through the company computer system are directed to Grupo TACA, and that "outside telephone calls to LACSA . . . at most locations are greeted with a Grupo TACA welcoming identification."
Other LACSA employees state that Grupo TACA management personnel such as the Regional Manager, Sales Manager, and Station Manager began to replace LACSA management between 1994 and 1998. The employees also state that their training and dispatch certificates, formerly issued by LACSA, are now issued by Grupo TACA.
The evidence submitted by the IBT includes:
Signs at ticket counters at various airports display the Grupo TACA logo but also display the specific carrier name. Aircraft are painted with the Grupo TACA logo and the name of the individual carrier.
Single Transportation System
In Trans World Airlines/Ozark Airlines, 14 NMB 218 (1987), the Board enunciated factors which it examines to determine whether carriers operate or will operate as a single transportation system. The Board cited the following as indicia of a single transportation system:
[T]he 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.
Id. at 236.
The Board further stated:
One [factor] is whether the . . . systems are held out to the public as a single carrier. We recognize that there may be differences between . . . 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 practical considerations . . . .
Grupo TACA is an alliance of Central American carriers with combined marketing. There are publicly visible indicia, such as aircraft and signs at stations, which show Grupo TACA and the names of the individual carriers that comprise the Grupo TACA alliance.
While there is some evidence that management is combined at certain U.S. locations, there is no evidence of centralized labor relations. To the contrary, there is evidence that LACSA handles its own labor relations. There is insufficient evidence of interlocking boards of directors or corporate officers.
There is no evidence that the carriers are operating under a single operating certificate. There is no evidence of a combined workforce. According to LACSA, there are no plans for a merger.
Based on the evidence provided, the Board finds insufficient evidence that LACSA and TACA are a single transportation system or will be a single transportation system by a date certain.
The Board finds that LACSA, TACA, AVIATECA and NICA are not operating as a single transportation system for representation purposes under the Railway Labor Act. Accordingly, the IBT's application in NMB File No. CR-6710 is converted to NMB Case No. R-6819 and dismissed.
By direction of the NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD.
Stephen E. Crable
Chief of Staff
Ms. Gloria Granillo
Joseph Z. Fleming, Esq.
Mr. Ray Benning
William R. Wilder, Esq.
Mr. Robert Belans
1. The Organization also lists TACA Honduras, which is part of TACA, in its application.
2. The participants also filed position statements relating to a pending Board mediation case, NMB Case No. A-13069. Those statements were not considered in this determination.
3. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO (IAM), is the certified representative for TACA's Clerical Office, Fleet and Passenger Service craft or class, NMB Case No. R-4290. By agreement between TACA and the IAM, TACA subcontracted the work. The IAM's certification remains in effect.