Switching Tracks: Complete Preemption Removal and the Railway Labor Act

Under the doctrine of complete preemption, the preemptive power of a statute may be so “extraordinary” as to warrant the removal of state law claims to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has identified three statutes that have complete preemptive force, but has not created a clear test to establish whether a statute has complete preemptive force. This note addresses the question of whether the Railway Labor Act (RLA) operates with complete preemp-tive force. Lower federal courts have grappled with this issue and are di-vided as to whether the RLA, which establishes a comprehensive dispute resolution scheme for the rail and air carrier industries, possesses this extraordinary power. Though it has not delineated a clear test, the Su-preme Court has identified two factors that are essential—preemption and a federal cause of action—and several factors that are influential to a finding of complete preemption. The author identifies these factors, analyzes their application to the statutes that have been found to have complete preemptive force, and then discusses their application to the RLA in light of the circuit split. The author concludes that the RLA does not operate with complete preemptive force because the essential findings of preemption and a federal cause of action are only questionably satis-fied, and other influential factors suggest that RLA disputes were not in-tended to be heard in federal court.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.