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NATIONAL RURAL LETTER CARRIERS' ASSN. v. USPS

January 16, 1986

NATIONAL RURAL LETTER CARRIERS' ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant


Green, United States District Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

The National Rural Letter Carriers' Association ("Union") took to arbitration the firing of an auxiliary rural letter carrier, Mark A. Schwartz, by the United States Postal Service ("USPS"). On May 27, 1985, Arbitrator Marshall J. Seidman ordered the USPS to reinstate Mr. Schwartz. The USPS has refused to comply with this order. Now before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff seeks a judgment enforcing the arbitration decision, while defendant seeks a judgment vacating the arbitrator's award. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and orders that the arbitration award be enforced.

I. Statement of Facts

 Mark A. Schwartz was employed by the USPS as a rural letter carrier for approximately four years. Mr. Schwartz is a member of the Union which is the collective bargaining representative of some 67,000 rural letter carriers employed by the USPS. The Union negotiated and executed a collective bargaining agreement with the USPS in 1981. Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts As To Which There Is No Genuine Issue ("Plaintiff's Statement") paras. 1, 2, 4, 5.

 On November 23, 1984, Mr. Schwartz was fired from his position as an auxiliary letter carrier for the Bartonville, Illinois, Post Office. His removal stemmed from his arrest on August 16, 1984, and subsequent indictment for the offense of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor, his adopted daughter. On October 15, 1984, an Illinois circuit court dismissed the charge because Mr. Schwartz entered a voluntary deferred prosecution program which provided that he seek counseling and pay a fine. The USPS initially suspended Mr. Schwartz indefinitely due to these charges, and later decided to terminate his employment. Defendant's Statement of Material Facts As To Which No Genuine Issue Exists ("Defendant's Statement") paras. 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

 Pursuant to Article 15 of the National Agreement between plaintiff and defendant, grievances were filed contesting Mr. Schwartz's suspension and removal. Defendant's Statement para. 14. The USPS agreed to arbitration and participated in it. An arbitration hearing was held on April 19, 1985. Plaintiff's Statement paras. 14, 16.

 In his May 27, 1985, Opinion and Award, the arbitrator concluded that the USPS violated Article 16 of the National Agreement because the branch manager of the Bartonville, Illinois, office made no independent judgment and gave no consideration to the proper penalty for the grievant's actions but simply accepted the recommendations made to him by the Management Sectional Center without any independent evaluation. Upon the basis of this procedural violation, the arbitrator ordered Mr. Schwartz reinstated without back pay. Id. P 19. The arbitrator acknowledged that Mr. Schwartz had been indicted for a crime, that this crime arguably was a crime for which discipline could be imposed, that there was no question of fact as to the criminal act because it was based upon Mr. Schwartz's admission, and that his arrest was publicized. Id. P 20.

 II. Conclusions of Law

 A. Courts' Deference to Arbitration

 It is a basic tenet of Federal labor policies that collective bargaining and labor arbitration are much favored. Congress stated, "Final adjustment by a method agreed upon by the parties is declared to be the desirable method for settlement of grievance disputes arising over the application or interpretation of an existing collective bargaining agreement." 29 U.S.C. § 173(d). Congress extended these policies to labor relations with the USPS in the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, "Collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and bargaining representatives . . . may include . . . procedures culminating in binding third-party arbitration. . . ." 39 U.S.C. § 1206(b).

 The Supreme Court, in the Steelworkers Trilogy, acknowledged the importance of labor arbitration in the scheme of labor relations. See United Steelworkers v. American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1403, 80 S. Ct. 1343 (1960); United Steelworkers v. Warrior and Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409, 80 S. Ct. 1347 (1960); United Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel and Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1424, 80 S. Ct. 1358 (1960). The Supreme Court dealt specifically with the question of reviewing arbitral awards:

 
The refusal of the courts to review the merits of an arbitration award is the proper approach to arbitration under collective bargaining agreements. The federal policy of settling labor disputes would be undermined if courts had the final say on the merits of the awards.

 United Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel and Car Corp., 363 U.S. at 596. The Court reasoned that

 
it is the arbitrator's construction which was bargained for, and so far as the arbitrator's decision concerns construction of the contract, the courts have no business overruling him because their ...

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