Flight Attendant Sues, Says Punishment For Not Paying Union Dues Is Illegal

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This could go to SCOTUS and really hurt unions. They have already ruled that government employees do not have to join or pay dues to unions so it is logical she will prevail. If so it will be interesting how many others opt out and what that does to the overall union movement

  2. Is Ali wins? Unions may suffer initially.. employees even worse who decided not to support their Union. And get on the wrong side of the Employer. The Union is then not required to help the employee. Could be a great move actually as there are a lot of lazy whiners in Unions.

  3. If I don’t pay the dues for the office coffee club, then I don’t get to drink the coffee. I still have a job. In this case, the benefits are clearly much better than coffee, but the principle is the same. .
    As someone who has worked both union and non-union in another industry, I say: be thankful if you have a union because management doesn’t have any obligation to schedule or assign work by seniority, and will play all sorts of games.

  4. I’m all for Unions, so long as the dues aren’t compulsory and the leadership are unpaid volunteers. After all, if the stated goal is the improvement of work conditions for the membership, it shouldn’t be a high-paying, pork benefit-laced career position to accomplish that. Corruption and greed within Unions is on par or worse than the Government, and that’s really saying something…

  5. Ali should have known before he (or she) accepted the job offer that joining the union and paying dues is required. If you don”t want to pay dues find a non union job!

  6. We knew when we were hired that the company was unionized and that we had to be members . Nobody forced them to work for a unionized carrier. Too bad so sad. Go find a non unionized carrier to work for. The rest of us need a union to protect us from greedy companies

  7. I love all the “go find another airline to work for” comments.

    They rhyme with any other protection racket: “you don’t have to pay protection. It just so happens every shop who hasn’t paid has burnt down. But yeah, totally your choice”.

    Also nice to see how those sweet, working-men loving unions are happy to trash their members‘ credit scores and lives over falling behind on their dues due to furloughs they union failed to prevent. Like Tony Soprano said: money flows uphill, shit flows downhill.

  8. @Chase – you are free to find a job that doesn’t pay you. You said the dumbest and most ignorant thing ever. You literally want a labor union person to work for free. Ignorant AF.

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