In the fall I wrote about an Allegiant flight attendant suing for a religious exemption to paying union dues. This followed the case of another flight attendant who wanted to sue because her airline refused a religious exemption to serving alcoholic drinks on board.
Now another Allegiant flight attendant is suing over union dues in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
Flight attendant Ali Bahreman is challenging the airline’s contract with its flight attendants union which takes away scheduling rights from employees for non-payment. A judge has rejected the union’s and airline’s motions to dismiss.
Bahreman sued in March 2020, six months after Allegiant informed him that it had suspended his ability to bid on his preferred schedule because he had not paid fees to Local 577, which represents the airline’s flight attendants. Bahreman said in his lawsuit that the loss of his bidding privileges has made it so he cannot schedule his preferred routes and vacations.
The CBA between Allegiant and Local 577 says any flight attendant who does not pay initiation fees, dues or certain other payments to the union can have their bidding privileges suspended.
Compulsory union membership is illegal in 28 states (‘Right to Work’ laws) where paying union dues cannot be required as a condition of employment. In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled in Janus vs AFSCME that government workers could not be compelled to pay union dues as a condition of employment either. However airline employees are not government employees, and state labor laws don’t trump the Railway Labor Act. And so compulsory union membership, when a majority of a work group have opted for one, remains in place for flight attendants and other aviation workers.
The argument in this case is that the Railway Labor Act doesn’t allow for loss of seniority as a punishment for non-payment of union dues. The only penalty is termination, which by the way is how the American Airlines flight attendant JCBA reads.
The Communications Workers of America response is that losing seniority bidding isn’t an employment penalty at all, so isn’t covered by the Act – seniority bidding doesn’t stem from employment but rather is a benefit of the collective bargaining agreement.
Flight attendant union dues are a major issue. I understand currently than a large number of American Airlines flight attendants are about to have their credit trashed by their union, for instance, because 20% of members are in arrears (as a result of furlough and minimum hours reducing earnings) and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants preparing to send many of these to collection.