The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport serves as a hub for airlines such as Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines. Seattle serves as a gateway for those traveling from the United States to Alaska, especially during the summer months when there is a surge of tourists heading north.
In 1926, Congress passed the Railway Labor Act, or the RLA, that was supported by both labor and management. At the time, the main mode of travel was the railway system. Since then, the RLA has come to include any derivative of that mode of travel, called derivative carriers, meaning that all incidental parties involved in the railways or airlines are covered by the RLA.
The RLA was designed to serve several policy purposes. First, it established a framework for union representation, bargaining, and dispute resolution. Second, it affirmed the right of railroad employees to self-organize with the goal of bargaining with management. Third, it would be a vehicle that would avoid disruptions to interstate commerce. This final policy was driven by congressional recognition that railroads uniquely contribute to the flow of essential goods and services in the United States. To achieve this overriding purpose, the RLA contains provisions designed to avoid, limit, or delay the use of self-help remedies by unions and management when disputes arise in order to protect the public and private interests of third parties reliant on the orderly operation of commerce.
To be a derivative carrier, subsidiaries or affiliates of railroads and airlines must qualify under the RLA by satisfying a two-part test:
- Whether there is common ownership or control between the subsidiary or affiliate and the parent; and
- Whether the employees of the subsidiary or affiliate perform work traditionally performed by the employees of an airline or railroad.
Note that the qualifications of an “employee” under the RLA is not determined based on union membership; an employee need not be a member of a union to fall under the RLA. Rather, an “employee” under the statute includes anyone who is “in the service of the carrier.” This includes “lower level” employees, meaning those who may not qualify as “employees” under the National Labor Relations Board but qualify as employees under the RLA. Also included are part-time employees, employees on leave, probationary employees, temporary employees with an expectation to stay for the long term, and furloughed employees.
An independent contractor may also qualify as an employee under the RLA, depending on the circumstances. It the contractor only uses company tools then he or she would likely be an employee. Benefits and tax status are also factors in determining employee status.
Foreign carriers that have United States operations are also included. That is to say, U.S. employees of foreign carriers are “employees” under the RLA. In addition, foreign employees of foreign carriers that work on international flights are also covered by the RLA.
Employment issues? Contact HKM law firm, Washington employment attorneys.