779 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2015), 12-36026, Aircraft Service Int'l, Inc. v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 117

Docket Nº:12-36026
Citation:779 F.3d 1069
Opinion Judge:OWENS, 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 Ryan E. Griffin, James & Hoffman, P.C., Washington, D.C., for Defendants-Appellants. Douglas W. Hall (argued), FordHarrison LLP, Washington, D.C.,...
Judge Panel:Before: Alex Kozinski, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Barry G. Silverman, Susan P. Graber, Richard A. Paez, Marsha S. Berzon, Richard C. Tallman, Andrew D. Hurwitz, John B. Owens, and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Owens; Concurrence by Judge Berzon; Dissen...
Case Date:March 10, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 1069

779 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2015)

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

March 10, 2015

Argued and Submitted En Banc, San Francisco, California: September 18, 2014.

Page 1070

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.

SUMMARY[*]

Labor Law

The en banc court reversed and vacated the district court's preliminary injunction under the Railway Labor Act against a strike by aircraft fuelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The en banc court held that the district court erred in failing to consider whether, prior to seeking a preliminary injunction, the fuelers' employer had made " every reasonable effort to settle [the labor] dispute either by negotiation or with the aid of any available governmental machinery of mediation or voluntary arbitration," as required by Section 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. In addition, the record lacked any evidence that the employer had done so. The en banc court held that the Railway Labor Act creates an exception to the Norris-LaGuardia Act, but this exception is limited and does not include Section 8.

Concurring, Judge Berzon, joined by Judges Paez and Graber, agreed with the majority that the district court erred in granting an injunction, as the employer had not complied with its duty under Section 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Judge Berzon wrote to explain that, in her view, even if the employer had complied with its duty under Section 8, it still would not have been entitled to an injunction because the labor dispute was not governed by the dispute resolution provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

Dissenting, Judge Kleinfeld, joined by Judges O'Scannlain, Silverman, and Tallman, wrote that the district court's order should be affirmed because the strike was barred by the Railway Labor Act, and the jurisdiction-stripping provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act did not apply.

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

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

Before: Alex Kozinski, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Barry G. Silverman, Susan P. Graber, Richard A. Paez, Marsha S. Berzon, Richard C. Tallman, Andrew D. Hurwitz, John B. Owens, and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Owens; Concurrence by Judge Berzon; Dissent by Judge Kleinfeld.

OPINION

Page 1071

OWENS, Circuit Judge:

Aircraft Service International, Inc., doing business as Aircraft Service International Group (" ASIG" ), sought and obtained a preliminary injunction from the district court in October 2012 prohibiting ASIG's employees from striking at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (" Sea-Tac" ). Section 8 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act (" NLGA" ) strips district courts of jurisdiction to enter such an injunction unless the party seeking relief has made " every reasonable effort to settle such dispute either by negotiation or with the aid of any available governmental machinery of mediation or voluntary arbitration." 29 U.S.C. § 108. Because the district court failed to consider whether ASIG satisfied this provision and the record lacks any evidence that ASIG did so, we reverse and vacate the preliminary injunction.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

ASIG is responsible for refueling about 75 percent of the airplanes at Sea-Tac. The dispute at issue arose when ASIG indefinitely suspended one of its fuelers, Alex Popescu, on September 14, 2012. Popescu and other ASIG fuelers allege that he was suspended " in retaliation for his leadership on workplace safety issues, including testifying at a public hearing of the Seattle Port Commission." ASIG counters that Popescu was suspended " so it could investigate reports that [he] had engaged in inappropriate conduct at the workplace."

After his suspension, Popescu and other ASIG fuelers decided to organize a " group response" to press for his reinstatement. Working Washington, a local coalition " united in support of quality jobs and a fair economy," was heavily involved in this effort. Jonathan Rosenblum is Working Washington's " Campaign Director." After unsuccessfully advocating for Popescu's reinstatement for two weeks, and at Working Washington's recommendation, the fuelers began distributing strike ballots on September 28. " [B]y an overwhelming margin," the fuelers voted to approve a strike to " get Alex Popescu back to work and to protest retaliation and intimidation by ASIG." Working Washington held a press conference soon after to publicize the fuelers' vote. Two days after this press conference, ASIG filed a complaint in the Western District of Washington seeking to enjoin any anticipated strike. This chain of events is summarized as follows:

o September 14, 2012: ASIG suspends Popescu.

o September 17, 2012: Popescu meets with the local ASIG station manager to discuss reinstatement and investigatory process. o September 25, 2012: Several ASIG fuelers allegedly call ASIG's Human Resources Department to ask for Popescu's reinstatement. o September 28--30, 2012: Working Washington distributes and collects strike ballots. o September 30, 2012: The strike ballots are counted. o October 3, 2012: Working Washington holds a press conference publicizing the strike vote. Page 1072

o October 5, 2012: ASIG files a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief.

The district court issued a temporary restraining order on October 5, 2012, prohibiting the fuelers from engaging in any strike activity " or other concerted action which is intended to interfere with ASIG's operations." After a hearing, the district court issued the following preliminary injunction on October 18, 2012:

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 [Railway Labor Act] which is intended to interfere with ASI[G]'s normal operations.

(footnote omitted).

In granting this preliminary injunction, the district court assessed whether ASIG had satisfied the four prongs of the Winter test: (1) the moving party is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) irreparable harm is likely if the injunction is not granted; (3) the balance of equities tips in the moving party's favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20, 129 S.Ct. 365, 172 L.Ed.2d 249 (2008). Acknowledging that the " parties spen[t] very little time briefing the other three criteria," the district court devoted the lion's share of its analysis to the first prong--in particular, Defendants' contention that the Railway Labor Act (" RLA" ) does not govern the dispute. The district court relied on both the RLA's stated purpose of avoiding interruptions to commerce and its prohibition on " strike-first tactics" in concluding that the Act prohibited Defendants' proposed strike.

The district court then addressed Defendants' argument that it had " no authority to issue an injunction because the NLGA forbids it from doing so." Citing Burlington Northern Railroad v. Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, 481 U.S. 429, 107 S.Ct. 1841, 95 L.Ed.2d 381 (1987), and Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad v. Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 490, 109 S.Ct. 2584, 105 L.Ed.2d 415 (1989), the district court concluded that the RLA trumped the NLGA. The district court entered the injunction without analyzing or citing Section 8 of the NLGA.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

" We review the legal determination of whether the district court had the power to issue an injunction de novo, but review the district court's exercise of that power for abuse of discretion." Cont'l Airlines, Inc. v. Intra Brokers, Inc., 24 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 1994). " Abuse-of-discretion review is highly deferential to the district court," but " [w]hen a district court makes an error of law, it is an abuse of discretion." Microsoft Corp. v. Motorola, Inc., 696 F.3d 872, 881 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). We review all legal interpretations underlying an injunction de novo. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

The NLGA generally divests federal courts of jurisdiction to " issue any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction in a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute, except in a strict conformity with the provisions of [the NLGA]." 29 U.S.C. § 101. Two provisions of the NLGA are relevant to this case: Section 4 and Section 8. Under Section 4, " in any case involving or growing out of any labor dispute," federal courts are prohibited from issuing an injunction to prohibit any person from " [c]easing or refusing

Page 1073

to perform any work," i.e., striking. Id. § 104(a). Under Section 8, federal courts are prohibited from issuing injunctive relief to " any complainant who has failed to comply with any obligation imposed by law which is involved in the labor dispute in question, or who has failed to make every reasonable effort to settle such dispute either by negotiation or with the aid of any available governmental machinery of mediation or voluntary arbitration." Id. § 108. Section 8 is called the NLGA's " clean hands" provision. Bhd....

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