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Republic airlines file federal suit against pilots union

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Three airlines operated by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc. are suing a pilots union over a website they say is damaging their reputation and hindering efforts to hire pilots.

Chautauqua Airlines Inc., Republic Airlines Inc. and Shuttle America Inc. want a federal judge to issue a permanent injunction forcing the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 357 to take the website down. The airlines charge in their lawsuit filed March 28 that the site, www.RAHContractNow.org, makes several false statements meant to scare away prospective pilots.

Republic Airways and the union have been locked in contract negotiations since 2007, as pilots continue to work without a new agreement. Pilots complain they haven’t had a pay raise in more than four years, and they want better scheduling and seniority rights.

In December 2010, the union withdrew its negotiating proposals and tentative agreements, and negotiations started over again. The airlines and the union have been in mediation under the oversight of the National Mediation Board since June 2011.

Due to a shortage of pilots, the airlines said in their suit that they’ve recently begun recruiting new ones amid a competitive market. But the union launched the website to disrupt the recruiting efforts, the airlines charged.

“As a result of these inaccurate statements,” the airlines said, “Republic has had an increase in the number of pilots who have not called back for interviews and dropped out of the application process.”

A spokeswoman for the union said it could not comment on pending litigation.

The airlines said the website falsely states that in the event of a strike they will fire probationary pilots. The airlines further charge that the union is issuing a veiled threat to prospective pilots by stating on the site that accepting jobs with the airlines would undermine the union’s efforts to disrupt their operations.

“Pilots who read this will reasonably conclude that the union may retaliate against them if they accept employment with plaintiffs,” the airlines’ complaint said.

They said it takes about three months to recruit and train a pilot. If the airlines are unable to recruit enough pilots now, they argued, service will be interrupted. The airlines charge that the union is violating state and federal labor laws, and also allege that it is committing breach of contract and defamation. In addition to the injunction, they seek monetary damages.

The three airlines filed the suit in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis.•

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This story originally ran in the March 29, 2012 IBJ Daily. The Indianapolis Business Journal is a sister publication of IL.

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