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Mark Duffer, An Individual On Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated v. United Continental Holdings

February 27, 2013

MARK DUFFER, AN INDIVIDUAL ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED CONTINENTAL HOLDINGS, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; UNITED AIRLINES, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; CONTINENTAL AIRLINES, INC., A DELWARE COPRORATION; AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INT'L, AN UNKNOWN BUSINESS ENTITY; THE CONTINTENTAL AIRLINES CHAPTER OF THE AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INT'L, AN UNKNOWN BUSINESS ENTITY, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Gonzalo P. CURIELUnited States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION (ECF NO. 8)

INTRODUCTION

On February 8, 2013, Mark Duffer ("Plaintiff") filed a class-action complaint on behalf of himself and other Continental Airlines pilots who are serving or have served in the United States Armed Services or National Guard. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff asserts three causes of action for (1) violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA"); (2) violations of California's Militarry and Veterans Code ("MVC"); and (3) negligence. (Id.) Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction ("Motion for TRO"). (ECF No. 8.) Plaintiff filed the Motion for TRO on February 21, 2013. On February 26, 2013, defendants Air Line Pilots Association, Int'l ("ALPA") and The Contintental Chapter of Air Line Pilots Association, Int'l ("CAL-ALPA") (together, "Union Defendants") filed an opposition to the Motion for TRO. (ECF Nos. 9, 10, 11.) Also on February 26, 2013, defendants United Continental Holdings, Inc.; United Airlines, Inc.; and Continental Airlines, Inc. (together, "Airline Defendants") filed an opposition to the Motion for TRO. (ECF Nos. 12, 13.) On February 27, 2013, Plaintiff filed a reply in support his Motion for TRO. (ECF No. 16.) After considering the parties' submissions, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the Motion for TRO.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an airline pilot and member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, alleges Defendants have unlawfully withheld payment to Plaintiff and the putative class based on their military service.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant United Continental Holdings, Inc. ("UCH") was formed in connection with the merger of defendants United Airlines, Inc. ("United") and Continental Airlines, Inc. ("Continental"). Plaintiff alleges that, thereafter, UCH negotiated a joint "United Pilot Agreement" with defendants Air Line Pilots Association, Int'l ("ALPA"); the Continental Airlines Chapter of ALPA ("CAL-ALPA"); and the United Airlines Chapter of ALPA (not a party to this case).

Plaintiff alleges that, under the United Pilot Agreement, UCH provided ALPA with $400 million to be distributed to Continental and United pilots. Plaintiff alleges that an arbitrator subsequently determined that $225 million should go to United pilots and that $175 million should go to Continental pilots. Plaintiff, a Continental pilot, alleges that CAL-ALPA then formulated a method for distributing the $175 million to Continental pilots.

Plaintiff alleges that CAL-ALPA's distribution formula was based on an "earnings portion" and an "availability portion." Plaintiff alleges that, under the "availability portion," the more available a pilot was during each month of a specific period, the greater the portion of the $175 million the pilot would receive. Plaintiff alleges that pilots who were absent due to military service during that specific period were considered unavailable during their absence and will therefore receive a smaller portion of the $175 million. Plaintiff alleges that other types of leave, such as jury duty leave and sick leave, were not counted as periods of unavailability. Plaintiff therefore claims that CAL-ALPA's distribution formula violates the USERRA and the MVA.

The first portion of the $175 million was distributed on January 31, 2013. Plaintiff now seeks a TRO and preliminary injunction enjoining the next distribution of the $175 million, which is set to occur on February 28, 2013. Both the Union Defendants and the Airline Defendants assert Plaintiff's Motion for TRO should be denied because (1) this Court lacks jurisdiction to grant the relief requested, and (2) Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate he and the putative class will suffer irreparable harm if a TRO and preliminary injunction are not granted.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction

Both the Union Defendants and the Airline Defendants assert that, pursuant to the Norris-LaGuardia Act, this Court lacks jurisdiction to enjoin the next distribution of the $175 million to the Continental pilots. Defendants contend the dispute over ALPA's distribution formula is a "labor dispute" as defined by the Norris-LaGuardia Act and that Plaintiff is attempting to enjoin the "paying or giving to . . . any person participating or interested in such labor dispute, any strike or unemployment benefits or insurance, or other moneys or things of value."

A. Legal Standard

A federal court is one of limited jurisdiction. See Gould v. Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. New York, 790 F.2d 769, 774 (9th Cir.1986). As such, it cannot reach the merits of any dispute until it confirms its own subject matter jurisdiction. Steel ...


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