Independent Federation of Flight Attendants v. TWA

Decision Date09 March 1988
Docket NumberNo. 86-6030-CV-SJ-6.,86-6030-CV-SJ-6.
Citation682 F. Supp. 1003
PartiesThe INDEPENDENT FEDERATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS, an Unincorporated Labor Organization, Plaintiff, v. TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Missouri

William A. Jolley, Doyle T. Pryor, Scott A. Raisher, Jolley, Walsh, Hager & Gordon, Kansas City, Mo., for plaintiff.

Murray Gartner, Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelson, New York City, Michael A. Katz, Trans World Airlines, Inc. Legal Dept., New York City, Paul E. Donnelly, Stinson, Mag & Fizzell, Kansas City, Mo., for defendants.


SACHS, District Judge.

This lawsuit was filed two years ago by the union representing some 6,000 flight attendants (IFFA) then employed by the defendant airline (TWA). It sought an injunction under the status quo provisions of the Railway Labor Act (45 U.S.C. § 152, Seventh) against implementation by TWA of proposed wage reductions and adverse changes in work rules. TWA was presumptively authorized to implement the changes, however, after March 6, 1986, the end of a cooling-off period scheduled by the National Mediation Board at the conclusion of contract negotiations. 45 U.S.C. § 155, First.

The court denied a temporary restraining order after hearing presentations from counsel for the parties, and urged the parties to attempt to resolve their differences on the remaining day before the parties were planning self-help. Such last minute settlements are not uncommon; in this instance, however, there were apparently unbridgeable differences between the parties, particularly regarding work rules governing the lifestyle of flight attendants. Further attempts to negotiate an agreement failed, and implementation by TWA, accompanied by a flight attendants' strike, occurred on March 7, 1986. After a brief reduction in service, TWA was able to maintain full operations by hiring an adequate number of substitute flight attendants as permanent replacements and by using crossover flight attendants. IFFA offered unconditionally in mid-May to return to work under the new conditions imposed by TWA. Fewer than 200 of the full-term strikers were accepted back by TWA. Practically all of the pre-strike work force was displaced.1 Wages have been reduced by 22% (some $44 million), and the total saving achieved by TWA may be roughly estimated at $100 million annually.

The present case has been tried sporadically, as soon as the parties were ready, from November 1986 to March 1987, on Count I of the Third Amended Complaint, filed in mid-July 1986. Briefing and argument on TWA's motion to dismiss at the end of plaintiff's proof extended into September 1987. Although Count I contains some allegations serving a dual purpose, and seeks some relief beyond a general reinstatement of full-term strikers, the main thrust of the Count and of the trial deals with a contention that the strikers were "unfair labor practice strikers" who are entitled to return to their jobs after the strike, displacing all replacements, and enjoying back pay entitlement (at a rate that might be estimated at perhaps $2 million per week) from the offer to return in May 1986, by analogy to rules established under the National Labor Relations Act. Bad faith in bargaining is the general allegation.

At the conclusion of plaintiff IFFA's presentation of its evidence, defendant TWA moved for dismissal of the claim, pursuant to Rule 41(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. Unlike the appraisal made at that stage in a jury case, the court's duty is to evaluate the evidence presented with the same critical analysis that would be made by the ultimate trier of fact at the conclusion of the case. Lang v. Cone, 542 F.2d 751 (8th Cir.1976); Palmentere v. Campbell, 344 F.2d 234, 237 (8th Cir.1965); White Industries v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 657 F.Supp. 687, 694 (W.D.Mo. 1986). For reasons stated below, TWA's motion will be granted. IFFA's claim for general reinstatement will be denied.


A. A general statement of factual findings, from the evidence already adduced, will be set forth in this section of the opinion, with the understanding, however, that other factual statements made throughout the opinion are deemed pertinent to the conclusions. The parties have supplied over 800 pages of proposed findings and narrative statements and arguments concerning the facts, emphasizing their conflicting conclusions. This court has attentively listened to the evidence and oral arguments now comprising some 7,000 pages of transcript and has immersed itself in documents and designations from depositions not read into evidence. It is deemed unnecessary and inexpedient to further delay a ruling by articulating comparable detailed discussions largely directed toward rehearsing the negotiating postures and contentions of the parties. To the extent the Court of Appeals may wish to probe deeper into certain factual issues, the materials supplied by the parties as proposed findings will be useful as a guide or index to the evidence.

It is this court's view that the great bulk of the materials would be most pertinent to an "interest arbitration" proceeding, in which a neutral party would make a determination from all material supplied what appropriate changes should have been made in wages, fringe benefits and work rules. While not irrelevant to a decision on the reasonableness of bargaining positions and tactics and the ultimate issue of intent to enter into a new collective bargaining agreement, it is believed that a summary review will suffice for present purposes. While there were of course different ways to try this case I am not critical of the parties for presenting so much detail, given the importance of the result. Another month of trial time could be foreseen, if TWA were to fully develop its defenses.

IFFA has been the exclusive bargaining representative of TWA flight attendants since April 1977. Other unions represented the flight attendants since the 1940s. The first IFFA-TWA contract was signed in October 1978. The first agreement was subject to amendment beginning in 1981, but negotiations continued into 1983, when the parties agreed on a 31% wage increase over three years, retroactive for two years. The printed replacement contract, referred to in litigation as the "Red Book," is the latest completed contract between the parties. It was scheduled to remain in effect at least until July 31, 1984 (generally referred to by the parties as the "amendable date").

TWA sought mid-term concessions valued at $33 million but the parties were unable to reach agreement. Bargaining on Red Book changes began after TWA served a notice of intended changes in February 1984.

From the beginning of negotiations TWA made known that it was seeking work rules changes that would create a "new lifestyle" for its flight attendants; it also initially sought salary concessions.

IFFA counsel Jolley prepared a memorandum to his clients suggesting negotiating strategy, acknowledging that concessionary bargaining by IFFA would be the major subject matter of negotiations and stating that IFFA's posture should be one of "close and cautious scrutiny." He urged IFFA to adopt a stance of "cautious willingness to listen and entertain, but which places the burden of persuasion on TWA." He noted the possibility that "at some point IFFA may be forced to file a lawsuit to compel TWA to provide us with ... necessary and relevant information." IFFA's president, Victoria Frankovich, is the only member of the negotiating committee who seems to have personally reviewed the Jolley memorandum.

IFFA's general goal was to postpone adverse changes in the contract for as long as possible, and to obtain some improvements in the agreement. It was generally supposed that "time is on our side" (Exh. 22, p. 060337) since the contract was considered to be favorable and TWA's economic prospects were believed by IFFA to be improving.

Having failed to obtain mid-term concessions, TWA's initial bargaining technique in early 1984, under the immediate direction of its chief negotiator, J.W. Hoar, was designed to hurry the process toward agreement by July 31, 1984. TWA at that time had a maximum objective or "wish list" of changes in work rules and wages that would result in a 25% reduction in flight attendant costs for an annual saving of some $64 million.

During April 1984, IFFA sent a questionnaire to its members itemizing TWA proposals for work rules changes and obtained results showing widespread opposition to such changes. In the early negotiations IFFA continuously sought detailed explanations of the proposed changes and generally received responsive replies in operational terms but frequent resistance from Hoar to questions seeking financial and economic estimates and details. For example, on one occasion the candid notes of TWA negotiating team member Murphy (acknowledged to be careful and legible, Doc. 218, n. 29) reflect Hoar's statement: "I do not intend to get into what relationship one proposal has on the other, or what each individual proposal will yield what $ savings or headcount. Recall in the past, this exercise led to wrong conclusions. These approx. figures are subject to changes. We will give you no more figures than that referring to an $8 million insurance cost." Exh. 22, pp. 060046-7. In another exchange typical of the early negotiations, Hoar said, "Xcept IAM, whom we intend to ask, all other groups have given." Frankovich asked, "By 25%?" Hoar replied, "U are seeking an issue for PR to F/As." Id., pp. 060058-9.

On May 8, 1984, Hoar stated that because the positions of the parties were so divergent, TWA had applied for mediation. A mediator was appointed in July.

In June 1984, TWA's president C.E. Meyer, Jr., made a presentation to the negotiating committee, tending to show that TWA had suffered an operating loss of $72 million in the first quarter of 1984, placing it "dead last" among major carriers. He...

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