Complaint filed with National Right to Work Foundation legal aid says stripping flight attendant of input into work schedule violates plain language of federal labor law
Las Vegas, NV (March 11, 2020) – Flight attendant Ali Bahreman has filed a federal lawsuit against Allegiant Air and Transport Workers Union of America Local 577 (TWU) for illegally punishing him for choosing not to pay union dues or fees.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada on Bahremans’s behalf on March 2nd. It alleges that because the Railway Labor Act (RLA) does not allow businesses and union officials to enforce “union security” agreements except by firing an employee, Allegiant and TWU violated the law by removing his “bidding” privileges, which allow him to determine his work schedule.
Bahreman chose not to become a member of TWU or pay forced union fees, and on September 3, 2019, Allegiant notified him that his bidding privileges were suspended because he had not paid any union fees. Bidding privileges allows flight attendants to pick their schedule in order to plan preferred trips, vacations and days off. Consequently, Bahreman is now unable to choose what hours he wants to work and has almost no control over his schedule.
The lawsuit charges that Allegiant and TWU unlawfully punished Bahreman by removing his bidding privileges, which violates the RLA’s requirement for what is a lawful forced dues clause. The lawsuit argues that under the RLA, firing workers is the only way that unions and employers are able to enforce “union security” agreements, thus the discipline against Bahreman is unlawful.
The monopoly bargaining agreement between TWU and Allegiant stipulates that any employee who does not pay union fees will “lose all of her/his bidding privileges.” But the RLA says that unions and employers are only allowed to make agreements “as a condition of continued employment.” Under the plain language of the RLA, other punishments are not allowed.
Foundation staff attorneys are asking the Court to restore Bahreman’s bidding privileges, declare that the monopoly bargaining agreement between Allegiant and TWU violates the RLA and prevent TWU and Allegiant from enforcing the unlawful “union security” agreement.
Although Bahreman lives in Nevada which has a Right to Work law protecting workers against being forced to fund a union, the RLA preempts state Right to Work laws. This means that even in states where union payments are strictly voluntary for all other workers, railway and airline employees covered by the RLA can still be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment.
“Workers shouldn’t have to worry about losing essential privileges in their workplace or have to fear losing their job for simply choosing not to support union bosses with their hard-earned money,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “That the Railway Labor Act prevents state Right to Work laws from protecting workers from forced union dues is a significant reason why a National Right to Work law is needed to ensure all workers have the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to fund a labor union.”
“Perhaps Allegiant Airlines understood that forcing a worker to pay union fees or else be fired is just plain wrong, which is why they resisted union demands for a full forced dues clause and instead settled on this ultimately unlawful provision,” observed Mix. “Having apparently recognized that forced dues are unfair to workers, the airline should just abandon the illegal provision at the center of this lawsuit and not replace it with anything so every employee covered by the contract is fully free to decide whether or not to financially support the union.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.