The Railway Labor Act

For 80 years, labor-management relations in the U.S. airline industry have been governed by the Railway Labor Act (45 U.S.C. §§151-188).  In April of 1936 the Act was amended to add the airline industry to the jurisdiction of the statute.  The Act previously had applied only to the nation’s railroad industry under the original 1926 legislation.

Airline Collective Bargaining Process

The process for developing an initial collective bargaining agreement, or revising an existing agreement, is specified in significant part by the Railway Labor Act.  See the Collective Bargaining Process under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) chart below which depicts the Act’s bargaining processes.

RLA collective Bargaining Chart

In summary, representatives of labor (the NCCA) and management (Norwegian/OSM) initially must file written demands on each other regarding the new terms and conditions that they propose for their labor contract.  Until we reach agreement, or the RLA’s dispute resolution processes have been exhausted, neither the management nor the Union may alter the status quo, meaning, management cannot implement their demands (e.g. lower wages) upon the employees and the Union cannot ask the cabin crew to strike.

After the bargaining proposals have been exchanged, the Union and management must meet and confer in an attempt to reach a voluntary agreement.  Either party may invoke mediation assistance with the National Mediation Board.  In rare labor emergencies, the NMB may trigger the mediation process itself.