This time it is the pilots who are winning a lawsuit, something we haven’t seen in quite a while. Also, it is pilots losing that same lawsuit, which makes for a rather interesting situation.
The case in question is an old one – 10+ years in the works now – brought but former TWA pilots who now work for American Airlines against their own union. The claim was that ALPA, the group which represented the TWA pilots, did not sufficiently work to defend the rights of those pilots when negotiating the integration of seniority lists as part of AA’s takeover of TWA. The pilots won their case against ALPA in 2011 and they were scheduled to begin the damages portion of the trial in mid-March. This settlement means no more trial; the affected pilots will simply get paid. The $53mm settlement should net each of the affected pilots somewhere in the $10,000 range. ALPA will cover the payout partly through its general fund and partly through insurance it carries. It is worth noting that both AA and APA (their pilot union) were originally named in the suit and were dismissed from the case.
This case is a separate one from that which the same group of pilots filed against AA in 2012 as the St. Louis crew base was closed. That also will have an impact on the seniority of the TWA pilots because of the protective “fence” that crew base provided. I haven’t heard any updated reports on that case lately.
One of the more interesting aspects of this case to me – and one which is particularly timely – is the concept of Duty of Fair Representation (DFR). That’s what the court ruled ALPA failed on. And with the current acrimony at United amongst its flight attendant union factions it is not too hard for me to see a case where both sides are going to want to fight exceptionally hard to keep “their half” of the crew fairly represented. Not that I think (at least thus far) either side has shown anything which even remotely resembles failing the DFR test, but the work rules on the two sides are very, very different and changes to those could make for quite a mess.
Also, I promise I’ll stop writing about lawsuits soon, though I do find some of the parallels over the years interesting.
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