Collective Bargaining Under the Railway Labor Act

As airline workers, JetBlue IFCs are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA was initially established to prevent “wildcat strikes” by the railroads over “minor disputes” that could interrupt commerce across the nation. The law was later expanded to airlines. The RLA was the first federal law guaranteeing the right of workers to organize and join unions and elect representatives without employer coercion or interference.

The RLA divides “disputes” between employers and employees represented by unions into two categories – “Major Disputes” and “Minor Disputes” The differences and process for resolution are:

  • Major Disputes–matters affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions; and, making or modification of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties.
    • Almost total reliance upon collective bargaining (negotiations) for dispute settlement.
    • Self-help is permitted after negotiation and mediation procedures are exhausted.
  • Minor Disputes–grievances growing out of the interpretation or application of collective bargaining agreements.
    • Boards of Adjustment have exclusive jurisdiction over grievance disputes.
    • Self-help is not allowed for minor disputes.

The RLA provides a process to resolve disputes and negotiate contracts through a series of steps before resorting to self-help (strike or lockout) as a last resort. This attached chart indicates where JetBlue IFCs are in this process: