Court Throws Out Union’s Railway Labor Act Challenge to Employer’s Withdrawal of Voluntary Recognition and Rejection of CBA

by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

On February 18, 2014, in Herrera v. Command Security Corp. d/b/a Aviation Safeguards, 2:12-cv-10968-SVW-RZx, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that an employer’s withdrawal of voluntary recognition of a union and rejection of its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) could not be challenged in court as a violation of the “status quo” provisions of the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

In Herrera, the court considered the following basic facts: the employer, Aviation Safeguards, voluntarily recognized the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) based on authorization cards obtained by SEIU from a majority of Aviation Safeguards employees. Aviation Safeguards then entered into a CBA with SEIU, but, before the end of the CBA (or “amendable date” in RLA-speak), Aviation Safeguards and some of its employees decided that SEIU no longer enjoyed support from a majority of Aviation Safeguards employees. Aviation Safeguards made its case to its employees and eventually received a union removal petition signed by a majority of its employees. At that point, Aviation Safeguards withdrew recognition and terminated the CBA.

SEIU and individual Aviation Safeguards employees challenged Aviation Safeguards’ actions in court, claiming Aviation Safeguards violated the RLA’s prohibition on changing terms to a CBA (the “status quo” obligation) without first going through the process outlined in the RLA (e.g., filing notices, bargaining, mediation). The court rejected this argument, determining the case presented a question about the union representation (or lack thereof) of Aviation Safeguards employees rather than about Aviation Safeguards’ breach of the status quo obligation. Under the RLA, questions about which union (if any) represents a group of employees are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board (NMB). The court thus concluded it had no authority to grant relief under the RLA.

In so deciding, the court addressed the union’s argument that because of the voluntary recognition and the existing CBA, the employees who did not want the union were required to go to the NMB to remove the union before Aviation Safeguards could reject the CBA. The court disagreed and observed that because the union was voluntarily recognized and did not have a representation certification from the NMB, once representation was questioned the onus was on the pro-union employees to apply to the NMB to confirm representation rather than the other way around. The court also noted that the NMB did not have independent authority to initiate the process for determining representation.

The union and employees also claimed that Aviation Safeguards violated the RLA’s prohibition on employer interference with its employees’ choice of a labor representative. The court did not rule on the merits of the RLA interference claims because it determined the union and employees filed suit after expiration of the six-month statute of limitation applicable to RLA interference claims.

This case raises some interesting considerations for voluntary recognition under the RLA. As the court points out, voluntary recognition is permitted under the RLA, and the NMB will treat voluntarily recognized unions much the same as certified unions most of the time. But the Herrera decision suggests a court’s options are limited if the employer or its employees decide they no longer want union representation. Thus, the decision highlights some of the risks for unions—and potential flexibility for employers—when a union seeks voluntary recognition rather than following a more traditional route to an NMB certification.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.