Master Executive Council (MEC)
- The Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling today that denied an appeal from Alaska Airlines to reconsider a lower court’s ruling in the case of Bernstein v. Virgin America.
- The lawsuit claimed that various California labor laws had been violated related to wages, hours worked, pay, and meal and rest breaks. The suit was originally filed against Virgin America and became the responsibility of Alaska Airlines after the merger between the two companies.
- Management has distributed multiple employee communications complaining that they will now have to obey the law but has not shown that they are focused on practical solutions. AFA stands ready to work out a solution with management that is compliant with the law and is a mutually agreeable path forward for all stakeholders.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) denied a petition by Alaska Airlines to hear further arguments about Bernstein v. Virgin America, which means that an earlier ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals now stands. Click here for the SCOTUS docket info >
The Bernstein lawsuit was brought forward by several Legacy Virgin America (L-VX) Flight Attendants prior to the merger between Virgin America and Alaska Airlines. The represented class of aggrieved employees was broadened under the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) to include all former and current L-VX FAs based in California. Alaska Airlines absorbed Virgin America’s standing in the case due to the merger.
Bernstein argued violations of California labor law specific to wages, hours worked, pay statements, final payment and meal & rest breaks. The CA hour and wage violations were asserted due to L-VX FAs not being in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at the time the suit was filed. However, the meal & rest break laws do not have a CBA carve out and therefore this ruling does impact all CA-based FAs today.
AFA’s mitigation efforts and industry’s response
In an effort to address the potential implications of Bernstein, AFA International wrote to the heads of all the major airlines, including Alaska Airlines, and to the CEO of the industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A). In those letters, AFA expressed interest in working with industry to accommodate operational needs while also securing appropriate meal and rest breaks for Flight Attendants.
AFA couldn’t disagree more with A4A’s response. We believe that when parties come together and discuss the issue there is always a solution.
In our opinion, management’s various communications are largely speculative and suggest that somehow safety provisions and meal and rest breaks cannot coexist. Arguably, the meal & rest requirements are applicable only to CA-based FAs working for a CA-based airline solely on intra-CA flights (e.g., SFO-LAX but not SFO-JFK). Rather than focus on practical solutions, management simply continues to gripe about having to comply with this law. As the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals already told them more than a year ago, there are many ways to comply with this law. Let’s not forget that when management references quality of life, that’s exactly what providing meal and rest breaks are addressing.
Just like AFA did by leading the way in securing paycheck protection for workers while ensuring the survival of the airline industry during the pandemic, we are ready to work out a solution with management on this issue. Now it’s up to management to engage with Labor and other stakeholders to find a mutually agreeable path forward for all parties.