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Carr v. Air Line Pilots Association International

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

July 13, 2017


          Posted Date: August 15, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

          Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and WIENER and PRADO, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         Plaintiffs-Appellants, Michael Carr, Gregory Kathan, Perry Meier, Kelly L'Roy, Charles Mulhall, and Scott Mund ("Appellants"), formerly pilots for Continental Airlines ("Continental") but now pilots for United Airlines ("United"), sued their collective bargaining agent, Defendant-Appellee Air Line Pilots Association International ("ALPA"), on behalf of themselves and all former Continental pilots. Appellants alleged that ALPA breached the duty of fair representation by interfering with the process of creating an integrated pilot seniority list ("seniority list") for all pilots of the two merging airlines, Continental and United. The district court granted ALPA's motion for a summary judgment and dismissed the Appellants' suit. We affirm.


         Facts and Proceedings

         A. Factual Background

         In 2010, United and Continental merged, operating thereafter as United. ALPA represented the pilots of both airlines as their collective bargaining agent before and during the merger.

         ALPA had a preexisting Merger Policy which required it to "provide the process" when two airlines whose pilots it represented merged. That process included the integration of the two seniority lists into one. ALPA's representation structure before and during this merger included Master Executive Councils ("MECs") elected to represent each airline's pilot group. ALPA's role during a merger is limited to providing the Merger Policy and facilitating the merger in accordance with that policy. In this case, each MEC appointed a three-member "Merger Committee" to create the seniority list. Pursuant to ALPA's Merger Policy, the Merger Committees had "complete and full authority" to negotiate and, if necessary, arbitrate a "fair and equitable" and "final and binding" seniority list. ALPA Merger Policy permitted the MECs and Merger Committees to "fashion their own process" for integrating the seniority lists, while observing specified "fundamental requirements."

         Ultimately, the MECs and Merger Committees were unable to agree on a seniority list. ALPA's Merger Policy specifies that if the pilots are unable to agree on a seniority list, arbitrators would merge the existing lists. The Merger Committees voluntarily agreed to select the arbitrators from a list proffered by ALPA.

         During the course of the arbitration, two discovery disputes arose, and the Merger Committees chose a separate arbitrator to referee those two disputes. First, Continental requested that United provide specific W-2 data showing each pilot's earnings for a period. The discovery arbitrator ruled that Continental could discover earnings information from the W-2s, subject to confidentiality procedures designed to prevent disclosure of the pilots' seniority numbers. Second, the arbitrator granted United's request for Continental pilots' defined-benefit plan records and did not subject that request to any restrictions, even though he acknowledged that the parties had agreed to protect the confidentiality of the information with respect to those records.

         Following 16 days of hearings, during which both sides submitted extensive testimony, expert witness reports, and documents, each side presented its proposal for integrating the seniority lists. The arbitrators subsequently issued an award that integrated the seniority lists into one list. The arbitrators included a thorough explanation of how they incorporated the factors required by the ALPA Merger Policy. The arbitrators rejected various parts of Continental's and United's proposals in coming up with the seniority list. Thereafter, United implemented that list, and the combined groups of pilots have been working under it ever since.

         B. Procedural Background

         Appellants filed the instant complaint, alleging that ALPA breached its duty of fair representation by acting in bad faith. Appellants requested that the court vacate the arbitration award and order ALPA to start a new seniority list integration process.

         ALPA filed a motion to dismiss on the pleadings. The district court denied that motion and converted it to a motion for summary judgment, allowing "tailored discovery" on the issue of ALPA's alleged breach. ALPA renewed its motion for summary judgment following preliminary discovery. The court granted that motion and Appellants timely appealed.


         Standard of review

         "We review a grant of summary judgment de novo under the same standard applied by the district court."[1] Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[2] We consider the evidence in the light most favorable ...

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