Suit: Allegiant Airlines illegally revoked flight attendant’s ability to bid for assignments because he did not pay forced union dues
Las Vegas, NV (April 8, 2021) – A federal judge recently ruled that Ali Bahreman, a flight attendant for Allegiant airlines, can proceed with his lawsuit against the Transportation Workers Union of America Local 577 (TWU) and his employer. Last week the judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada denied motions filed by TWU and Allegiant to dismiss the case. Bahreman is receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Bahreman filed his complaint in May of 2020 challenging an illegal “union security” agreement between TWU officials and Allegiant. As an airline employee, Bahreman’s dealings with his employer and TWU officials are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). Even though Nevada, where Bahreman is based, has a Right to Work law to ensure union financial support is strictly voluntary, the RLA excludes airline and railroad workers from state Right to Work protections.
This means that under the RLA, union officials are allowed to negotiate with employers to extract forced union fees from nonmembers by signing “union security” agreements. But, as Bahreman’s complaint points out, the RLA only allows agreements that make union dues payments “a condition of continued employment.”
In other words, although Allegiant can agree to fire employees who do not pay forced union dues or fees, workers cannot be required to make payments to TWU officials as a condition of on-the-job benefits. Yet that is what Allegiant’s union security agreement with TWU bosses does: it conditions Bahreman’s ability to use “bidding privileges” on his paying the union a forced fee. This violates his statutory rights under the RLA.
“Bidding privileges are the source of a flight attendant’s ability to schedule preferred trips, vacations, and nonworking days,” Bahreman’s complaint explains. Because he was not a TWU member and had not paid forced union fees, Allegiant notified Bahreman on September 3, 2019, that his bidding privileges were being suspended.
According to the complaint, “Loss of bidding privileges affects Bahreman’s quality of life by requiring that he be constantly on call to work and therefore cannot plan days off or hold secondary employment.” Bahreman’s complaint argues the revocation of his bidding privileges is illegal because Allegiant’s “union security” agreement with TWU bosses is not allowed under the RLA.
Bahreman’s brief asks the court to declare Allegiant and TWU’s illegal so-called “union security” agreement null and void, and to permanently enjoin the two from enforcing similar illegal agreements in the future. It further asks the court to restore Bahreman’s bidding privileges and compensate him for damages suffered while he was without them.
This is not the first time Allegiant has faced legal challenges to its agreement with TWU officials. In November 2020, flight attendant Annlee Post filed a federal lawsuit against the airline and union for threatening to take away her bidding privileges. Post objects to TWU membership on religious grounds, and offered to direct her compulsory dues payments to charity instead. Post’s Right to Work Foundation attorneys argue that threatening to revoke her bidding privileges violates not only the RLA, but Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, because her loss of workplace privileges results from Allegiant’s refusal to accommodate her sincere religious beliefs.
“Allegiant Airlines and TWU officials are enforcing an agreement that is clearly illegal, at the expense of independent-minded workers like Ali Bahreman and Annlee Post,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “These cases demonstrate why a National Right to Work law is needed to protect all American workers from forced union dues, including those under the RLA who currently cannot be covered by state Right to Work protections.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.