742 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2014), 12-36026, Aircraft Service International, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters AFL CIO Local 117

Docket Nº:12-36026
Citation:742 F.3d 1110
Opinion Judge:N.R. SMITH, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:AIRCRAFT SERVICE INTERNATIONAL INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS AFL CIO LOCAL 117, Defendant, and WORKING WASHINGTON; ALEX POPESCU; JONATHAN ROSENBLUM, Defendants-Appellants
Attorney:Dmitri Iglitzin, Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt, LLP, Seattle, Washington; David P. Dean (argued), Kathy L. Krieger, Darin M. Dalmat, and Daniel M. Rosenthal, James & Hoffman, P.C., Washington, D.C., for Defendants-Appellants. Douglas W. Hall, FordHarrison LLP, Washington, D.C., for ...
Judge Panel:Before: Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Milan D. Smith, Jr., and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge N.R. Smith; Dissent by Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. M. SMITH, Circuit Judge, dissenting:
Case Date:January 10, 2014
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 1110

742 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2014)

AIRCRAFT SERVICE INTERNATIONAL INC., Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS AFL CIO LOCAL 117, Defendant, and WORKING WASHINGTON; ALEX POPESCU; JONATHAN ROSENBLUM, Defendants-Appellants

No. 12-36026

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 10, 2014

Argued and Submitted July 8, 2013, Seattle, Washington

As Corrected January 13, 2014.

Page 1111

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. D.C. No. 2:12-cv-01729-JLR. James L. Robart, District Judge, Presiding.

Dmitri Iglitzin, Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt, LLP, Seattle, Washington; David P. Dean (argued), Kathy L. Krieger, Darin M. Dalmat, and Daniel M. Rosenthal, James & Hoffman, P.C., Washington, D.C., for Defendants-Appellants.

Douglas W. Hall, FordHarrison LLP, Washington, D.C., for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Milan D. Smith, Jr., and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge N.R. Smith; Dissent by Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr.

OPINION

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N.R. SMITH, Circuit Judge.

To avoid interruptions to interstate commerce, the Railway Labor Act treats labor relations in the national transportation industry differently from more generally applicable labor law. Section 152 First of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 152 First (" section 2 First" ), imposes a duty on all carrier employees to engage in the Act's labor dispute resolution procedures before ceasing to perform their work. Because the employees of Aircraft Service International are carrier employees, they must comply with the Act. Because they are subject to this obligation, the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the strike injunction. The injunction did not violate the employees' or other defendants' First Amendment rights; it furthered the important governmental interest of regulating the economic relationship between labor and management and was no greater than essential to the furtherance of that interest.

Facts and Procedural History

Air Craft Service International, Inc., doing business as Air Craft Service International Group (" ASIG" ), provides air craft services at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (" Sea-Tac" ). As part of such services, ASIG refuels approximately 75 percent of the airplanes at Sea-Tac.

On September 14, 2012, ASIG indefinitely suspended one of its employees, Alex Popescu. The parties dispute the reasons for his suspension. ASIG alleges it suspended Popescu for " inappropriate behavior, including screaming obscenities at his supervisor." Popescu and other ASIG employees counter that he was suspended " in retaliation for his leadership on workplace safety issues, including testifying at a public hearing for the Seattle Port Commission." The Seattle Port Commission hearing was held two days prior to his suspension and was Popescu's second appearance before the Commission.

After Popescu's suspension, other ASIG employees at Sea-Tac (" Employees" ) decided to organize " a group response" to advocate for Popescu's reinstatement. In organizing this response, Jonathan Rosenblum of Working Washington1 became heavily involved in this employer/employee dispute. After approximately two weeks of failed efforts to gain Popescu's reinstatement, the Employees decided " by an overwhelming majority" to strike for up to eight hours on some future date.

Working Washington announced the Employees' decision to strike at an October 3, 2012 press conference, even though no strike date was set. After the press conference, ASIG immediately filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' local chapter, Teamsters Local 117; 2 Working Washington; Jonathan

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Rosenblum; Alex Popescu; and unnamed ASIG employees. In the complaint, ASIG requested a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and a declaratory judgment for a permanent injunction to enjoin the strike as unlawful under the Railway Labor Act (" RLA" ).

The district court issued a temporary restraining order on October 5, 2012, prohibiting all Defendants from striking or encouraging a strike at Sea-Tac. The order sought to " maintain the status quo pending the outcome of a hearing to determine whether a preliminary injunction should issue." After a full hearing on October 17, 2012, the district court concluded that preliminary injunctive relief was proper, applying the factors in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Counsel, 555 U.S. 7, 20, 129 S.Ct. 365, 172 L.Ed.2d 249 (2008). The Court issued the following strike injunction:

Alex Popescu, Working Washington, Jonathan Rosenblum, and John Does 1-100, and their officers, agents, employees, and members are hereby preliminarily enjoined from in any manner or by any means directing, calling, causing, authorizing, inducing, instigating, conducting, continuing, encouraging, or engaging in any strike, work stoppage, sick-out, slow-down, work-to-rule campaign, or other concerted action in violation of the RLA which is intended to interfere with [ASIG's] normal operations.

(footnote omitted).

" A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest." Winter, 555 U.S. at 20. Reviewing the district court decision as to the first Winter factor, the district court reasoned that the text and purposes of the Railway Labor Act (" RLA" ), 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (in particular section 2 First), support ASIG's position that air carrier " employees are never permitted to strike as a first step." The district court also concluded the second factor was satisfied, " because the threat of irreparable harm is largely self-evident from the underlying facts of the case. In essence, Defendants are threatening to shut down SeaTac Airport." In balancing the equities, the district court found for ASIG, as " [a]n improperly granted injunction would... merely delay[] resolution of [the Defendants'] dispute with [ASIG]." Id. Finally, the court reasoned that the fourth Winter factor favored ASIG: " an unlawful strike would plainly be contrary to the public interest," while " an injunction might prevent commerce from being severely disrupted."

Popescu, Rosenblum, and Working Washington appealed the temporary restraining order and preliminary strike injunction. In the appeal, they challenge the district court's exercise of jurisdiction over the dispute. They also contend the breadth of the injunction violates their First Amendment rights.

Standard of Review

" We review de novo a district court's exercise of subject matter jurisdiction." Burlington N. Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 174, 203 F.3d 703, 707 (9th Cir. 2000). If we find the district court properly exercised jurisdiction, we will " review the district court's decision to grant... a preliminary injunction for abuse of discretion. Our review is limited and deferential." Sw. Voter Registration Educ. Project v. Shelley, 344 F.3d 914, 918 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal citations omitted). That being said, " [t]he district court's interpretation of the underlying legal

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principles... is subject to de novo review." Id. In sum, the preliminary injunction will be upheld unless the district court " abused its discretion or based its decision on an erroneous legal standard or clearly erroneous findings of fact." E.E.O.C. v. Recruit U.S.A., Inc., 939 F.2d 746, 751 (9th Cir. 1991).

Discussion

I. The Federal District Court has Jurisdiction over this Labor Dispute

Generally, the Norris-LaGuardia Act (" NLGA" ) withdraws jurisdiction from federal courts to enjoin strikes " growing out of any labor dispute." 29 U.S.C. § 104(a). Enacted in 1932, the NLGA " was designed primarily to protect working men in the exercise of organized, economic power, which is vital to collective bargaining." Bhd. of R.R. Trainmen v. Chicago River & Ind. R. Co., 353 U.S. 30, 40, 77 S.Ct. 635, 1 L.Ed.2d 622 (1957). Thus, " Congress acted to prevent the injunctions of the federal courts from upsetting the natural interplay of the competing economic forces of labor and capital." Id.

However, the NLGA " does not deprive the federal court of jurisdiction to enjoin compliance with various mandates of the Railway Labor Act." Burlington N. R.R. Co. v. Bhd. of Maint. of Way Emps., 481 U.S. 429, 445, 107 S.Ct. 1841, 95 L.Ed.2d 381 (1987) (quotation marks omitted). Though enacted six years prior to the NLGA, the RLA has been recognized as an exception to the NLGA's jurisdiction stripping provisions, because Congress sought to " channel[] the[] economic forces" the NLGA sought to protect, " in matters dealing with railway labor, into special processes...." Bhd. of R.R. Trainmen v. Chicago River & Ind. R. Co., 353 U.S. at 41. This channeling recognized " the failure of voluntary machinery to resolve a large number" of railway labor disputes " serious enough to threaten disruption of transportation." Id. at 40. Indeed, Congress enacted the RLA after " decades of labor unrest that persistently revealed the shortcomings of every legislative attempt to address the problems." Burlington N. R.R. Co., 481 U.S. at 444. Through the Act, Congress sought to " protect the public from the injuries and losses consequent upon any impairment or interruption of interstate commerce through failures of managers and employees to settle peaceably their controversies." Union P. R. Co. v. Price, 360 U.S. 601, 609, 79 S.Ct. 1351, 3 L.Ed.2d 1460 (1959)...

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