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AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION v. USPS

December 20, 1988

AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION, AFL-CIO, and NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS, AFL-CIO, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 CHARLES R. RICHEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 The United States Postal Service (the "Service") enjoys a statutory monopoly over the delivery of mail in and from the United States. This monopoly, as the Supreme Court recently noted, "has prevailed in this country since the Articles of Confederation," and is intended to ensure "prompt, reliable, and efficient services to [postal] patrons in all areas." Univ. of California v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 485 U.S. 589, 108 S. Ct. 1404, 1408, 99 L. Ed. 2d 664 (1988)(quoting 39 U.S.C. § 101(a)). The monopoly is embodied in the Private Express Statutes (the "PES"). 18 U.S.C. §§ 1693-1699; 39 U.S.C. §§ 601-606. The monopoly serves its purpose by ensuring that the revenues available to the Service are not endangered by private competition in less costly, and thus more profitable, segments of the mail delivery market.

 Although Congress has granted the Service a complete monopoly in the PES, Congress has also granted the Service the power to suspend that monopoly in certain situations. Under 39 U.S.C. § 601(b), the Service "may suspend the operation of any part of [the PES] upon any mail route where the public interest requires the suspension." This lawsuit concerns the Service's decision to voluntarily suspend its monopoly under the PES with respect to that part of the mail-delivery market known as "international remailing." The regulation which suspended the Service's monopoly effectively defines "international remailing" by its description of what is permitted: the regulation "permits the uninterrupted carriage [by private entities] of letters from a point within the United States to a foreign country for deposit in its domestic or international mails for delivery to an ultimate destination outside of the United States." 39 C.F.R. § 320.8. The Service issued the regulation on August 20, 1986.

 The plaintiffs, the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers (hereinafter the "Unions"), filed this suit on November 25, 1987. *fn1" They allege that the Service's decision to permit private international remailing violated the APA in two respects. First, they claim that the decision was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). Second (and not so differently) they claim that the decision was in excess of the statutory authority granted the Service under 39 U.S.C. § 601(b), and therefore in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(B). In a nutshell, the Unions contend that the Service applied the wrong legal standard in deciding to suspend international remailing monopoly. They further contend that the Service failed to develop an adequate record upon which to base its decision, and that it drew incorrect inferences from the record that did exist. The Service has met the Unions' contentions on the merits, and has argued in addition that the Unions lack standing to challenge its decision.

 DISCUSSION

 1. Standing

 The Service contends that the Unions lack standing because they have not been able to show an actual or threatened injury to their membership, and because they are not within the "zone of interests" that the PES are designed to protect. This Court disagrees that the Unions have not shown a sufficient actual or threatened injury, but agrees with the Service that the Unions are not within the "zone of interest" that the PES are designed to protect.

 An essential element of standing in an Article III court, whether suit has been brought to review agency action or otherwise, is that the plaintiff must be capable of showing actual or threatened injury. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343, 95 S. Ct. 2197 (1975). The Service contends that the Unions have made no such showing here, in that they have offered no proof that their respective memberships have lost jobs or been expressly threatened with the loss of jobs.

 The Service is correct; the Unions have made no such showing. However, the Unions have not attempted to make such a showing. Instead, the Unions allege that the decision to permit private international remailing, with its attendant loss of revenue to the Service, inflicts harm upon its membership through the loss of "employment opportunities." Compl. at para. 16. The Unions reason that, even if no jobs are directly lost, the relinquishment of international remailing to the private sector reduces the current membership's opportunity to engage in international remailing, and thereby reduces the membership's opportunity to obtain "work time, overtime, employment opportunities, future benefits and . . . morale." Pl. Mem. at 8 (quoting National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO v. Independent Postal System of America, 470 F.2d 265, 270 (10th Cir. 1972)).

 The Court agrees with the Unions that the reasonable prospect of reduced employment opportunities, even if no specific loss currently can be shown, satisfies the "threatened injury" requirement of standing. There is authority from the Tenth Circuit for this finding in a context virtually identical to that presented here. See American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. React Postal Services, 771 F.2d 1375, 1380 (10th Cir. 1985) (whenever private entity permitted to perform postal functions contrary to the PES, the "employment opportunities of the postal workers are inevitably reduced"); National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO, supra, 470 F.2d at 270 (injury in fact due to "significant" loss of employment opportunity where PES not complied with). This conclusion is further consistent with authority in this Circuit arising in slightly different contexts. See, e.g., Intern'l Union of Bricklayers v. Meese, 245 U.S. App. D.C. 395, 761 F.2d 798, 802 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (union had standing because guidelines allowing aliens to enter workforce would interfere with jobs which "would otherwise likely go to union members"); Autolog Corp. v. Regan, 235 U.S. App. D.C. 178, 731 F.2d 25, 31 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (alleged loss of "employment opportunity," though no loss of present jobs shown, sufficient to confer standing); National Treasury Employees Union v. Horner, 659 F. Supp. 8, 12 (D.D.C. 1986) (union had standing where agency action would permit outside competition with membership)

 Here, the avowed interests of the Unions' respective memberships -- the retention of employment opportunities -- simply bear no reasonable relationship to the purposes of the PES. The PES monopoly was designed to ensure only that the Service maintains sufficient revenue to be able to provide efficient and effective mail delivery services to all aspects of the market. The Service retains the express authority to suspend that monopoly when the public interest requires such a suspension. There is simply no evidence that the PES was intended to provide, even indirectly, job security for Service employees, or that job security for Service employees furthers in any way the purposes of the PES. The interests asserted by the Unions simply bear no relation to the purposes and policies implicit in the PES -- indeed, they might well diverge in certain situations ...


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