Competing Section 6 Notices prevent Union from Getting TRO
- On August 10, 2021
By: Sherry Joseph
Partners Chloé Pedersen and James Helenhouse successfully defended against the imposition of a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and a preliminary injunction. International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (“S.M.A.R.T.”) brought an action seeking a federal court to impose a preliminary injunction and issue a TRO to order Iowa Northern Railway Company (“Iowa Northern”) to reverse changes it “made with regard to employee’s rates of pay and the collection of union dues,” as well as to prevent Iowa Northern from making any further “unilateral changes.”
S.M.A.R.T. argued that Iowa Northern violated the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”) because negotiations were underway pursuant to its Section 6 notice at the time it made the unilateral changes. Iowa Northern countered, however, that negotiations pursuant to S.M.A.R.T.’s Section 6 notice had terminated, and since the union never responded to Iowa Northern’s Section 6 notice, Iowa Northern was free to engage in self-help.
Iowa Northern argued that S.M.A.R.T. did not meet the standards for a court to grant a preliminary injunction. The first prong requires that the movant show that it is likely to succeed on the merits. S.MA.R.T., thus, was unable to clearly show that it did not terminate negotiations regarding its Section 6 notice. It was clear, however, that the union never responded to Iowa Northern’s Section 6 notice – claiming that it considered that notice “was a mere counterproposal to be considered as part of ongoing negotiations.”
In addition, the court held that SMART did not establish that the other standards the court considers in deciding whether to grant a preliminary injunction weighed in its favor. In other words, SMART did not establish that (1) there was a threat of irreparable harm to the SMART if the injunction were denied; (2) the harm to SMART outweighed the harm to Iowa Northern if the injunction was granted; and (3) the public interest favors granting the injunctive relief.
In sum: the court found that regardless of whether negotiations were on-going regarding S.M.A.R.T.’s Section 6 notice, S.M.A.R.T. still had a duty under the RLA to timely respond to Iowa Northern’s Section 6 notice. Whether Iowa Northern could engage in self-help after S.M.A.R.T. did not timely respond to its Section 6 notice and it could be proven that negotiations were still on-going in reference to the union’s Section 6 notice, was found to be an issue of first impression. S.M.A.R.T. recently filed a notice of appeal in the Eighth Circuit.
The case is Int’l Ass’n of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transp. Workers, et. al, v. Iowa N. Ry. Co., 2021 WL 3038874 (N.D. Ia. July 19, 2021).
For further information please contact Sherry Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org, Chloé Pedersen at email@example.com, or Jim Helenhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.