United States District Court, N.D. Ohio
FLIGHT OPTIONS, LLC and FLEXJET, LLC, Plaintiffs and Counter-Defendants,
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, LOCAL 1108; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS; and BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AIRLINE DIVISION, Defendants and Counter-Plaintiffs.
OPINION & ORDER [RESOLVING DOCS. 73, 74]
S. GWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
January 24, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in
part Counter-Plaintiffs International Brotherhood of
Teamsters, et al. (“Pilots Union” or
“Union”) motion for contempt.The Court also
granted in part and denied in part Pilots Union's second
motion for preliminary injunctive relief.
February 22, 2017, Counter-Defendants Flight Options, et al.
(“Carriers”) appealed the Court's
order. On March 6, 2017, Carriers filed a motion
to stay the order pending appeal.
March 10, 2017, Counter-Plaintiffs Pilots Union filed a
motion to clarify bond.
reasons below, the Court DENIES Carriers' motion to stay
and ORDERS that Pilots Union must post a $10, 500 bond to
make the injunction effective.
April 22, 2016, Counter-Plaintiffs Pilots Union filed a
motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining
order against Counter-Defendants Carriers
(“Carriers”).The lawsuit stems from pilot integration
issues and collective bargaining issues after a merger
between airline carriers Flight Options and Flexjets.
25, 2016, this Court granted the preliminary
injunction. The Court ordered Carriers to accept the
Pilots Union's integrated seniority list, rescind the
voluntary separation package (“first VSP”), and
bargain in good faith with the Counter-Plaintiffs Pilots
8, 2016, Counter-Defendants Carriers appealed the Court's
May 25 order.Counter-Defendants' appeal is now
pending before the Sixth Circuit.
October 28, 2016, the Court ordered Counter-Plaintiffs Pilots
Union to post a $125, 000 bond to cover any costs or damages
Counter-Defendants Carriers may suffer should the Sixth
Circuit find this Court improperly enjoined the
October 25, 2016, Counter-Plaintiffs Pilots Union filed a
motion to find Counter-Defendants Carriers in contempt for
violating the preliminary injunction.
Union also moved for further temporary and preliminary
injunctive relief. The Union argued that the Carriers
violated the original preliminary injunction by failing to
rescind the first VSP and by failing to negotiate collective
bargaining issues in good faith. The Union requested
further injunctive relief (1) requiring Carriers to bargain
and (2) preventing Carriers from transferring certain
aircraft abroad to one of their European
January 24, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in
part Counter-Plaintiffs Pilots Union's motion for
contempt and granted in part and denied in part Pilots
Union's motion for further injunctive
the contempt order, the Court denied Pilots Union's
request to rescind the first VSP as to retired pilots because
the Union withdrew their request. The Court ordered the
parties to finalize the new VSP they negotiated
(“second VSP'”). The parties
the request for further injunctive relief, the Court ordered
Carriers to bargain in good faith over Railway Labor Act
(“RLA”) Section 6 issues. The Court
found Pilots Union's request to prevent Carriers from
transferring aircraft to Europe premature.
February 22, 2017, Counter-Defendant Carriers appealed the
Court's order.Counter-Defendants' appeal is now
pending before the Sixth Circuit.
March 6, 2017, Carriers filed a motion to stay the
Court's order pending appeal.
argue a stay is appropriate because the Sixth Circuit is
likely to issue an opinion overturning the January 24
contempt order's underlying basis, the Court's May 25
order.Carriers also argue that this Court
should stay the January 25 preliminary injunction order
because it contains advisory opinions that will skew the
parties' arbitration process.
Union argues that a stay is unwarranted because Carriers show
neither likelihood of success on the merits nor irreparable
injury if the case is not stayed.
March 10, 2017, Counter-Plaintiff Pilots Union filed a motion
to clarify bond.
Motion to Stay
“bear[ ] the burden of showing that the circumstances
justify” staying a preliminary injunction pending
appeal. When deciding whether to stay an
injunction, this Court considers similar factors to those
considered when deciding whether an injunction should be
deciding a motion to stay, courts consider: “(1)
whether the [movant has] a likelihood of success on the
merits; (2) whether they will suffer irreparable harm in the
absence of a stay; (3) whether the requested injunctive
relief will substantially injure other interested parties;
and (4) where the public interest lies.” These factors
“are not prerequisites that must be met, but
interrelated considerations that must be
Success on the merits
preliminary matter, the Court addresses Carriers'
contention that the January 24 order is littered with
advisory opinions rising to reversible error. The argument is
example, Carriers argue that the Court's reference to
Counter-Defendants as “Carriers” is grounds for
reversal because not all defendant companies fit the Railway
Labor Act's (“RLA”) definition of
Court refers to Counter-Defendants as “Carriers”
for brevity, not to communicate the legal standing of each
defendant company under the RLA. Shortening Defendants'
names to “Carriers” is as insignificant as using
the RLA acronym instead of the Act's full title.
also argue that the Court's reference to Flairjet as
Flexjet's U.K. “subsidiary” is ripe for
reversal because Flairjet is not their
subsidiary. The Court's word choice here is
Union categorized Flairjet as Flexjet's subsidiary, and
the Court used that language in its opinion. But whether a
parent-subsidiary relationship exists was irrelevant to the
Court's decision. The Court found the question
surrounding Flairjet premature, and no order was issued
purpose of appellate review of a preliminary injunction is to
identify abuse of discretion,  not to police diction. This
Court's vocabulary choices are not grounds for appeal.
that in mind, the Court turns to why Counter-Plaintiffs
Pilots Union are likely to succeed on appeal as to the
Court's contempt and injunctive relief orders.
argue the Sixth Circuit is likely to overturn the Court's
May 25, 2016, order for three reasons. First, Carriers argue
that they had no duty to bargain over a VSP before offering
it to the pilots, and even if they did, the issue is a minor
dispute for the arbitrator to decide.
Carriers argue there was insufficient evidence that the
parties reached a full agreement on the second VSP, and
Carriers therefore were not in contempt for failing to
memorialize an agreement.
Union responds that Carriers and the Pilots Union have
already memorialized the new VSP and filed a joint
voluntarily dismissal of that portion of this
lawsuit. The parties have settled the VSP issue.
Thus, the issue is no longer addressable here or on
Court agrees with this argument. The Court stands by its
analysis in the May 25 injunction-Carriers were required to
bargain over a VSP before issuing it to pilots. But the issue
is now moot. After negotiations following this Court's
VSP finding, the parties reached a new VSP agreement and
memorialized it. Having negotiated an agreement on the
VSP, the parties stipulated to a dismissal of the VSP-portion
of this lawsuit. Carriers are therefore unlikely to
succeed on appeal. The issue has gone away.
Carriers argue that the Court issued an advisory opinion as
to Carriers' failure to rescind the first VSP for retired
pilots. Pilots Union initially requested a contempt finding
but later withdrew the request. While the Court found
that Carriers' failure to rescind the agreements likely
violated the May 25 order, it denied Pilots Union's
request as moot.
Union responds that because the Court did not in fact find
Carriers in contempt, there is nothing to
Supreme Court counsels courts against issuing advisory
opinions. Such a rule exists to prevent “an
opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical
state of facts.” But here, no hypothetical was
the remedy issue was moot because the Union recognized the
logistical difficulties in withdrawing pilots' retirement
benefits, whether Carriers violated the Court's initial
injunction was a “definite and concrete” legal
the Court's conclusion that Carriers violated the order
is immaterial. Because the Court did not find Carriers in
contempt, no adverse order exists. Carriers'
“likelihood of success on the merits” is
immaterial-any remedy from a successful appeal would be
argue that the Sixth Circuit will likely reverse this
Court's order to bargain because it contains three
advisory opinions on minor disputes over which this Court
lacks jurisdiction. Specifically, Carriers argue that
the following are minor disputes: (1) whether Flexjet is an
“Affiliate” of Flight Options under the 2010
Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”); (2) the
scope of § 1.5(c)(4) of the 2010 CBA in relation to RLA
Section 6; and (3) whether § 1.5(c)(4) issues must be
resolved before RLA Section 6 bargaining. Carriers'
central concern is that the Court's order will have undue
influence over the arbitration process.
Union responds that the Court simply fulfilled its
preliminary role in determining which disputes are
arbitrable, and making that determination required
interpreting contractual provisions. The Union goes on to
state that “nonbinding dicta is not the basis for
judicial relief in the form of an ‘emergency' stay
in any case.”
January 24 order, the Court presented its best understanding
of the contractual landscape operating in this
case. The Pilots Union claimed that the
Section 1.5 of the 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement
needed to be broadly read to give the Pilots Union authority
to bargain about all issues in both the Section 1.5
bargaining and the Section 6 bargaining.
Court acknowledged-both at that time and again here-that the
analysis involved certain minor contractual disputes that the
arbitrator will ultimately resolve. The arbitrator is under
no obligation to implement the Court's understanding of
the contractual landscape.
Court also notes that whether a stay is granted here is
largely irrelevant to Carriers' central concern. The
Court's opinion is on the record-staying the decision has
no impact on whether the arbitrator considers the Court's
analysis worthwhile or not.
Carriers argue they will succeed on appeal because the Court
did not make express findings on three of the four
preliminary injunction factors in its January 24
it is “generally useful” to make specific
findings on each of the four factors, it is not
required. Carriers' argument is therefore
unlikely to succeed on appeal.
Carriers argue that the Court's order violates the
Norris-LaGuardia Act, in part by failing to require Pilots
Union to post a security ...