Release #: FFT 18.06
July 25, 2018
ALPA Sues Frontier Airlines for Bad-Faith Bargaining
“Poking the Bear” Lands the Company in Federal Court
CHICAGO—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), on behalf of Frontier Airlines pilots, filed a lawsuit against Frontier Airlines on July 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The lawsuit cites a pattern of bad-faith conduct by the airline throughout the two-year period of negotiations and mediation for a new pilot agreement. The company’s conduct is designed to undermine the bargaining process and frustrate efforts to reach agreements as required by the Railway Labor Act.
“Today, we took necessary steps to represent our pilots at the bargaining table, insisting on the good-faith bargaining that the law requires as part of our effort to achieve the market-rate contract our pilots deserve,” said Capt. Tracy Smith, who leads ALPA’s Frontier Airlines pilot group. “We’re asking the court to enforce a neutral arbitrator’s decision that the company bargained in bad faith and must negotiate pay increases for Frontier pilots, compel Frontier to cease their bad-faith conduct and bargain in good faith, and require the company to refrain from undermining the bargaining process under the Railway Labor Act.”
The first count of the lawsuit is based on Frontier’s failure to comply with an arbitration award issued in September 2017 that obligated the airline to bargain in good faith to establish new pay rates pursuant to the requirements of Letter of Agreement (LOA) 67 to the pilots’ contract.
Under the terms of LOA 67, pilots sacrificed $53 million in pay and benefits to save the carrier from possible bankruptcy liquidation. In exchange, the airline promised to open negotiations on higher pay when the airline became financially stable.
“Even though Frontier has achieved double-digit profit margins since 2014 and recorded industry-leading financial performance, four years later Frontier pilots still haven’t received the increased pay promised in exchange for their concessions,” Smith said.
The second count details the various ways that Frontier management has undermined the bargaining process and frustrated completion of a collective bargaining agreement, including making regressive proposals, delaying making proposals, reneging on prior agreements, and wasting bargaining time generally.
“Frontier is, at best, going through the motions and pretending to negotiate,” Smith said. “The company has no intention of reaching a fair agreement with ALPA and our pilots.”
Finally, the third count challenges the Company’s retaliatory unilateral changes in pilot working conditions as evidence of their bad faith conduct.
“Under the guise of a ‘dependability’ policy, the company has punitively altered sick days, changed commuting rules, and adjusted reserve duty periods without first negotiating with ALPA,” Smith said.
The lawsuit cites repeated instances where the company, instead of bargaining, seeks to antagonize the ALPA pilot group. It reveals the company’s stated enjoyment in “poking the bear,” with examples of how management canceled 140 pilots’ scheduled August vacations, threatened pilots with discipline for failing to fly more hours, and prevented ALPA from representing probationary pilots at disciplinary hearings.
“All of these actions show that management continues to bargain in bad faith, hoping to further pressure, inflame, and retaliate against Frontier pilots during bargaining,” Smith said. “The company continues to undermine the bargaining process along with its efforts to neuter the union’s negotiating and contract administration efforts and status.”
Frontier pilots are the lowest-paid major airline pilots in North America, earning an average of 40 percent less than their peers.
“Frontier is an industry outlier in all aspects,” Smith said. “Our company is unwilling to accept industry-labor relations and negotiating and mediation practices, which leaves Frontier as the last major U.S. airline whose pilots still work under a bankruptcy-era contract. That’s unacceptable.”
This lawsuit is separate and apart from the Association’s work with the National Mediation Board to conclude a new collective bargaining agreement. Frontier’s unwillingness to conform to widely accepted industry labor relations, negotiating and mediation practices shows it’s an industry outlier in all respects. Only days after discussing with the NMB it’s supposed “best offer,” Frontier wrote to the NMB to acknowledge that it could do more.
Frontier pilots have worked hard and in good faith to negotiate a new agreement and comply with the RLA. Other airline companies have completed agreements that return bankruptcy concessions to employees and recognize employee contributions to financial success. Until the NMB sets a hard deadline for the Company to complete a market rate agreement in mediation, Frontier’s bad faith, delay, and willingness to obstruct and sabotage negotiations enable it to maintain an unfair competitive advantage over other airlines.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 60,000 pilots at 34 airlines in the United States and Canada, including the more than 1,200 Frontier pilots. Visit the ALPA website at alpa.org or follow the Frontier pilots on Twitter @F9ALPA and Facebook @FrontierPilots. More information about the Frontier pilots’ fight for a contract is available at frontierbadbargain.com.
CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or Media@alpa.org