Legal Aspects of Airport Programs. Topic 07-02. Preemption of Worker Retention and Labor Peace Agreements at Airports

Airport authorities impose (or consider imposing) labor peace and worker retention agreements on various companies that do business at the airport. The labor peace agreements generally require that, as a condition of operating on airport property, a company must become signatory to a valid collective bargaining agreement with a labor organization. The company must also require any work done by subcontractors to be performed under the same conditions. Worker retention agreements typically require a successor company taking over for a predecessor company to hire all of the predecessor's employees who worked for the predecessor prior to the successor taking over operations. For decades, the federal courts have ruled that when a state or other subdivision of the state attempts to regulate activity that is either arguably protected or prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), the state's conduct is preempted and the state is forbidden from taking any kind of action that interferes with federal labor laws and national labor policy. The Supreme Court has allowed lawsuits for damages against state governmental authorities who have imposed regulations found to be preempted by federal labor law under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, there is an exception to federal labor law preemption under a Supreme Court case called Boston Harbor. (Building and Constr. Trades Council v. Associated Builders & Contractors of Mass/RI, Inc. ["Boston Harbor"], 507 U.S. 218, 224 [1993]) When a state, as an owner or manager of property, acts as a private participant in the marketplace, the state is not subject to preemption because preemption only applies to state regulatory actions, but not when the state is acting as a proprietor or a market participant. In the Boston Harbor case, it was permissible for a state agency to require a project labor agreement for any contractor that was going to work on a project to clean up the Boston Harbor. Because a private entity could require a project labor agreement under the NLRA, it was permissible for a state agency to require a project labor agreement when it was contracting with an employer to provide goods or services to the state. The preemption doctrine also exists under the Railway Labor Act ("RLA") for air carriers covered by the RLA, and entities owned or controlled by air carriers that perform traditional airline functions. The Supreme Court and other federal courts have held that preemption similar to the NLRA exists under the RLA. While there do not appear to be specific cases that say a Boston Harbor-type of market participant exception to preemption definitively exists, the courts could find such an exception to preemption under the RLA given that federal courts often look to the NLRA to interpret the RLA. Similarly, the Airline Deregulation Act ("ADA") prohibits state or local government regulation of an air carrier's "price, route, or service," subject to an exception preserving an airport operator's "proprietary powers." The objective of this research is to produce an analysis of the scope of the preemption doctrine applicable to efforts by airport authorities to control or regulate the labor relations practices of various companies that do business at the airport or with the airport authority. The analysis should provide background on the theory and underlying legal sources for the principle of the market participant exception or proprietary exception as applied in the airport context. It should also identify the various categories of companies doing business at the airport and analyze the scope of preemption as applied to those businesses, including but not limited to the following: (1) Air carriers and their wholly owned subsidiaries performing aeronautical activities; (2) Companies licensed by the airport to perform aeronautical services to air carriers, including companies that pay privilege fees (either fixed or as a percentage of gross receipts) to the airport; (3) Companies licensed by the airport to provide services to the passengers, such as wheelchair or electric cart operators, whose contracts are with air carriers, whether or not privilege fees are imposed; (4) Companies, concessionaires, or contractors selected by the airport operator to provide services to the public; and (5) Companies or contractors selected by the airport to provide services directly to the airport authority. This research will be conducted in two phases and four tasks in a firm fixed price agreement. At the conclusion of Phase 1, Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) will make a determination whether to proceed with Phase 2. The tasks will be as follows: Phase 1 Task 1. Detailed Report Outline. Conduct background research and collect relevant material. Based on the initial but complete review of the source material, propose a detailed report outline. The outline should contain sufficient detail to describe what a report of appropriate length will contain. This outline should also contain the estimated pagination for each proposed section and/or subsection. This material will be submitted for ACRP consideration and approval. Participate in a conference call with the ACRP project review panel 3 weeks after submission of the outline. Phase 2 Task 2. After ACRP approval of the detailed outline, conduct additional research, and case and statutory/regulatory analysis. Collect additional primary data to the extent necessary. Task 3. Submit an initial draft report in accordance with the approved outline (including any modifications required by ACRP). Participate in a conference call with the ACRP project review panel 3 weeks after submission of the initial draft report. Task 4. Revise the initial report as necessary and provide a red-line and a clean version of the draft final report (DFR). The ACRP will provide written comments to which each comment will need a point-by-point response and the report will be revised as appropriate, and submitted as the final report. Funding: $55,000; 25% paid upon submission and approval of the Task 1 Outline; 50% paid upon submission and approval of the Task 3 Report; 25% paid upon submission and approval of the Task 4 Final Report. Proposals should be submitted as a single PDF with the following information and in the following order: (1) A statement of interest and qualifications; (2) A statement of resources (e.g., hours per person per task) allocated to this project and timelines for each task; (3) Resumes of key team members along with a description of responsibilities; (4) Any additions, deletions, or changes you may wish to suggest for undertaking the work; (5) A list of relevant prior publications (you may enclose a one or two samples); and (6) An executed, unaltered liability statement. Here is a printable version of the Liability Statement. Proposers will be evaluated by individuals collectively knowledgeable in this problem area. Evaluations are based upon the proposers': (1) experience in the subject area; (2) understanding of the work (demonstrated by the commitment of resources); (3) prior relevant publications (including briefs); and (4) schedule for completing the work. Proposals should be submitted electronically to by 4:30 pm (EST) by June 1, 2015. Proposers can read Guidance for Working on ACRP Legal Studies Projects for more information.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $55000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 11-01, Topic

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Aviation Administration

    800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  United States  20591

    Airport Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Greenberger, Marci

  • Start Date: 20150417
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 39481

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01560596
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 11-01, Topic
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Apr 18 2015 1:00AM